Soccer Player Sues University for Brain Injuries Caused by Hazing

September 18, 2014,

7308313216_544db242b7_h.jpgA former soccer player for Clemson University is suing her fellow players, coaches, and several members of the administration after suffering severe brain injuries from hazing. The woman sustained permanent trauma as a freshman, during the hazing ritual planned by the players, supported by the coaches, and ignored by the Clemson athletic department. Traumatic brain injury lawyers at Pintas & Mullins examine this case and advise students and parents on how to stay healthy.

The United States, for better or worse, is in love with sports - we go nuts over the Super Bowl, Olympics, even the World Cup had its moment. Sports and sportsmanship provide valuable lessons to young athletes: discipline, respect for authority, and the ability to work with others to accomplish a goal are lifelong virtues. Unfortunately, in the midst of our romance with professional sports and players, we have lost sight of what truly matters in the long-run, which is health and safety.

NFL Admits to Long-Term Brain Damage


The NFL recently stated in federal court that one in three players will develop long-term cognitive problems, and that these conditions will manifest at young ages. This is significant in many ways, not least of which because the NFL has denied these facts for several decades, disputing evidence that its players suffered significantly higher rates of brain damage than the general population. The League is only admitting this, however, out of necessity. There are now troves of irrefutable evidence on this topic that specifically centers of the NFL and its players.

Much of this evidence came to light in court, where more than 5,000 former players sued the NFL for hiding the risks of repeated concussions. The case infamously settled for $675 million, which will cover treatment for the injuries and diseases associated the NFL players suffered from their careers. Although this seems like a significant pool of money, the settlement has been widely criticized as inadequate to cover the true costs of medical care.

Among the conditions linked to repeated head trauma include chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which, like dementia, is both chronic and degenerative. The vast majority of players receiving compensation from this settlement will suffer from Alzheimer's or advanced dementia. Other conditions include Parkinson's disease, CTE, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

Clemson Sued for Negligence


The lawsuit against Clemson, filed by Haley Ellen Hunt, details the circumstances leading up to and after the brain trauma. Hunt's injury occurred in August 2011 during a ritual freshman hazing near Riggs Field. The freshmen were blindfolded, demeaned, and ordered to perform various tasks. Hunt was spun around in circles in order to be disoriented, then ordered to sprint down the field while blindfolded. She was told to run as fast as she could and ran head first into a brick wall. No one attempted to stop her.

She was knocked unconscious and carried to the locker room, where the Clemson coaches were called. Some of the players wanted to call an ambulance but the Clemson coaches decided not to take her to the hospital, and told the other players not to tell anyone about the incident. Hunt was sent back to her dorm with a butterfly bandage and without supervision.

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DePuy Recalls Jawbone Medical Device due to Death Risks

September 16, 2014,

6642198091_b415bd587b_m.jpgA Johnson & Johnson company, DePuy, recently recalled its Synthes Craniomaxillofacial (CMF) Distraction System because of risks most severely affected children and infants. These devices are used during operations to the trachea and other respiratory organs, so infants are most at risk for injury and death if the device fails. Medical device lawyers at Pintas & Mullins highlight this and several other important recalls patients must be aware of.

The DePuy CMF system is an implant used in the lower jawbone, to either stabilize or lengthen the bone. It is most often used to correct birth defects in infants or traumatic jawbone events in adults, by gradually lengthening the bone. This device is being recalled because it can reverse direction, causing the lengthening process to cease.

The lengthening process occurs after surgery, and if it stops suddenly it can cause obstruction of the trachea, or windpipe. The trachea is critically important to allowing air to pass through the throat and into the lungs, so any obstruction is a medical emergency. As mentioned, infants utilizing DePuy's CMF device are most at risk of death, as sudden obstruction of the trachea could go unnoticed and lead to respiratory arrest and death.

Children and adults with the CMF device who have the ability to maintain an open airway are considerably less likely to suffer a serious injury if the device fails because the trachea would not be obstructed. In all patients, however, any device failure would require immediate medical intervention.

So far there have been 15 reports of injury associated with this specific device, and DePuy has sent an urgent notice to hospitals and consumers. This recall was initiated on April 16, 2014. Any patient who received this implant and suffered serious complications should contact our firm immediately for a free case review. We are currently investigating cases related to many medical devices, particularly those manufactured by DePuy.

Patients Offered Free Hip & Knee Replacements after Recalls


If the name DePuy sounds familiar, it is likely because of the massive litigation against it for its defective all-metal hip implants. These metal-on-metal devices were once touted as 'revolutionary' new implants that will last for decades and allow better mobility for patients. In reality, the devices were approved without any long-term or adequate testing, and the all-metal components can damage surrounding bone and tissue immensely.

In addition to the bone, muscle and tissue damage, the metal parts grind together through continuous use, release metal ions into the bloodstream. Of course, having high levels of metal debris release into the body is far from healthy, and can lead to metallosis, or metal toxicity. Symptoms of metal toxicity include effects on the kidneys, blood, or nervous, cardiovascular, and gastrointestinal systems.

These metal-on-metal hip and knee devices were implanted in hundreds of thousands of vulnerable patients, despite manufacturer's knowledge that they would likely fail prematurely. In response to this dire need, two hospitals in New York City are offering free hip and knee replacements for eligible patients.

The hospitals, Lenox Hill in Manhattan and Franklin Hospital in Valley Stream are offering operations for patients in need who are either uninsured or underinsured. We recently reported on the recent adoption of offering to help pay medical premiums for needy patients, and this seems to be in the same vein of assistance. Franklin Hospital has been offering this type of free service since 2011, as an opportunity to give back to the community and help patients who are so often ignored.

To qualify for such a procedure patients must undergo a physical evaluation, live within an hour's drive of either hospital, and have an income within the federal poverty line (ranging around $11,600 - $23,300 for an individual). These operations are offered through the Operation Walk USA organization, which provides hundreds of free hip and knee replacements per year for patients across the country. More information on this organization can be found here.

This is welcome news after recent reports that more than 115,000 people could lose their health insurance due to unresolved data issues relating to immigration and citizenship. Making matters worse, another 363,000 people may see their coverage costs change because of, again, data problems with income and federal subsidies. This affects people who applied for medical coverage after immigrating to the U.S., and those who have an income that makes them eligible to receive federal subsidies.

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Four Children Dead in Southside Fire

September 8, 2014,

5443359455_7dc7373b9a_b.jpgA fatal fire in Chicago's Roseland neighborhood on the far south side has left four children dead and two adults critically injured. The fire erupted on the second floor of a building housing nearly 20 unites, around 3:30 a.m. The four children were asleep on the third floor unit, where there were no working smoke detectors. Fire injury lawyers at Pintas & Mullins take a closer look to try to glean some lessons from this tragedy.

The 18-unit building (11200 block of South Vernon) is owned by a landlord who was, according to residents, very neglectful of the building and its tenants. The building failed many city inspections over the last decade, including the most recent inspection on June 9 of this year. According to the city building records, which can be found online, city inspectors cited missing smoke and carbon monoxide detectors along with inadequate furnaces, extensive water damage, and broken doors.

The door to the unit where all four children were sleeping was open when the fire started, which fire officials believe is how the fire spread into that apartment. The second-floor unit where the fire erupted is owned by a man who was not home at the time. He told the Chicago Sun-Times that he complained many times to building management, who would ignore his complaints and requests for maintenance. He noted that lately his stove had been smoking and the locks on his front door were broken.

The mother of the four children killed jumped out of a third-story window with her boyfriend; they are in critical condition at a nearby hospital. The rest of the buildings' 50 residents were able to evacuate safely, although they are now without a home. The Red Cross came to the scene early Monday morning to hand out water and offer services.

Negligence and Carelessness in Fire Injury Lawsuits


The cause of the fire is still under investigation. Residential fires can be caused by many factors, such as defective appliances (in this case, a smoking stove), fireplaces, candles, cigarettes, and heaters. Particularly in buildings with several units or decrepit conditions, fires can be inordinately deadly and destructive. According to statistics by the U.S. Fire Administration, more Americans died in fires in 2008 than all natural disasters combined.

When a fire is caused by someone else's negligence or careless behavior, a lawsuit may be filed by those affected. For example, the fire that erupted in Roseland was clearly incited by the building's lack of proper management and oversight. The building failed most of its city inspections, and resident's complaints were routinely ignored. If the landlord has insurance on the building, those affected by the fire would be able to file suit against the company and obtain compensation for the harm done to them.

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Feds Question Chicago Police Shootings

September 3, 2014,

chicago-police-in-toronto-canada.jpgThe Chicago branch of the Fraternal Order of Police, a labor union of law enforcement officers, recently received warning that the federal government was investigating shootings by the Chicago Police Department. Specifically, both the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's Office are investigating shootings involving unarmed victims. The police brutality lawyers at Pintas & Mullins are glad to see that someone is holding CPD accountable for its fatal misconduct.

Officers of the CPD are rarely, if ever disciplined or charged for shooting at residents they deem suspicious or dangerous even if the reasons behind their reasoning are murky at best. Anyone who has been following the news in Ferguson, Missouri knows this is not exclusively to the Chicago community, but a practice followed by police department throughout the country. Just because it is a common practice, however, does not make it right, and the FBI is asking the right questions to shed light on what can be done to remediate the mounting tension between law enforcement and their communities.

Chicago Police were informed of the investigation by a former CPD officer and currently attorney specializing in defending police in court. The man, Daniel Herbert, sent the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police a memo on August 29, 2014 detailing the federal probe, which will focus on "incidents in which an offender's gun was not recovered." Herbert goes on to remind officer that they are not required to cooperate with or speak at any criminal investigations.

CPD officers are encouraged not to speak to any federal agents without legal representation, and contact Herbert immediately if they are approached. The full memo can be found here.

This investigation comes to light just days after a CPD commander was charged with official misconduct and aggravated battery after he put his gun in a suspect's mouth and threatened to kill him. Commander Glenn Evans, who was one of Chicago Police Superintendents Garry McCarthy's most valued officers, oversees the West Side's Harrison patrol district, and is now charged with two felonies.

The incident occurred in January 2013 in the Park Manor neighborhood (at the time Evans was commander of the South Side's Grand Crossing patrol district). Along with two other officers, Evans approached a 24-year-old man standing near 71st and Eberhart allegedly holding a handgun. The man started running the opposite direction, but the officer eventually arrested him in an abandoned house. The charges were later dropped.

During the arrest, Evans reportedly placed the barrel of his gun into the man's mouth - which is confirmed by DNA testing on Evans' gun - tasered his groin, and threatened him with gruesome detail. After these allegations came to light the Independent Police Review Authority investigated the complaint and recommended Evans be relieved of his powers until the case was closed. This never happened, and no discipline was ever taken. More than a dozen complaints were filed against Evans between 2001 and 2006, and he was never disciplined for any of them, although he was also named in several police misconduct lawsuits as well.

The FBI is always able to charge officers with official misconduct in particularly egregious cases, but successful federal prosecution is extremely rare. CPD officers fatally shot 13 residents in 2013, and another 10 people so far this year. One of the most recent victims, Marlon Horton, was fatally shot outside a Chicago Housing Authority building on West Monroe. The shooting was captured by surveillance cameras located in the lobby.

The footage reveals that Horton received no medical assistance in the minutes after he was wounded, despite officers standing just feet away. Police officers are required to secure emergency assistance to any injured persons. Due to this blatant violation of civil rights and official policy, Horton's brother filed a federal lawsuit against the City of Chicago, the officer who shot Horton, the security guard of the building and the company who employed her, and the Chicago Housing Authority.

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Paint Strippers Named as Major Health Risk by EPA

August 29, 2014,

5533610454_e1fbeaa032_b.jpgThe Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently released official evaluations of three chemicals found widely in household products. One chemical in particular, which is used in paint stripping products, was especially condemned. The agency estimates that more than 230,000 American are directly exposed to the chemical in their work. Toxic substance attorneys at Pintas & Mullins detail the EPA's report and the health risks of chemical exposure.

Making the problem even more widespread, the EPA notes that the paint stripping chemical is a risk not only to those working directly with it, but also to bystanders in places the product is used. The chemical, dichloromethane (DCM), is also used in pharmaceutical manufacturing, metal cleaning, and degreasing. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) designates DCM as a potential carcinogen.

OSHA has specific standards for DHM exposure in the workplace, which varies between industries. There are unique rules for shipyard employment and the construction industry, for example. Those exposed to DCM are at risk of developing several types of cancer, heart conditions, liver problems, central nervous system problems, or irritation of the skin and eyes. These can occur if DCM is in haled or comes into contact with the skin.

Workers' Rights and Employers' Responsibility


Employers are required by federal and state laws to protect workers from toxic substance exposure of any and all kinds. For DCM, this can be done through engineering controls, like isolating the source of DCM and using ventilators, or by personal protective equipment, such as respiratory equipment or clothing. It is also employers' legal responsibility to make sure all their employees understand the identities and hazards of toxic chemicals. All hazardous substances must be labeled and have corresponding safety data sheets. Employees must also be trained appropriately, including information on the dangers of each chemical and how to protect themselves.

There are over 15,000 chemicals OSHA identifies as toxic or dangerous, some of the most insidious being asbestos, arsenic, benzene, diacetyl and lead. Lawsuits regarding exposure to asbestos - which more often than not occurs in the workplace - are now the largest, longest-running cases in the country. Asbestos is a fibrous material found in construction materials like insulation and heat-resistance materials such as automobile brake pads. If the fibers are inhaled, they can implant permanently in the lungs and, over time, cause a specific type of cancer known as mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma is almost always fatal, and is only caused by exposure to asbestos. It is a particularly devastating form of cancer because so many people are unaware where, when or how they were ever exposed. Mesothelioma patients are often left confused with many questions about asbestos, exposure, and how it developed into cancer.

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Chicago Officials Use Twitter to Tracks Foodborne Illness

August 27, 2014,

twitter-what-are-you-doing.jpgIt seems like every day there is a new recall issued for some type of food contamination - salmonella, E.coli, listeria or other risks of public health. Although the FDA and USDA are trying to ramp up their inspection and enforcement practices, change is simply not coming fast enough to protect those most vulnerable. For their part, health officials here in Chicago are looking to Twitter to help track cases of food poisoning.

Food contamination lawyers at Pintas & Mullins have seen too many cases of serious ailment and even death from dangerous and recalled food. Unfortunately, a major hurdle in overhauling the food safety system is how rarely consumers report illnesses to federal or state health departments, making it difficult to track and locate outbreaks. While people may not generally take the time to officially report their sicknesses, they do quite often take their grievances to Twitter.

Foodborne Chi


This is not lost on Chicago health officials, who are using the social media platform to reach out to those users, asking them where they believe the food poisoning came from. More often than not, their information leads to charges against restaurants selling unsafe food. The handle these officials are working under is @foodbornechi.

To help establish a more efficient method of shifting though Tweets, the Chicago Department of Public Health hired the technological collaborative group Smart Chicago. Together, they developed an app that looks through tweets from Chicagoans or linked to the city that may indicate or reference a foodborne illness. The app is also called Foodborne Chicago, and it responds to Tweeters with a link to an online form for reporting further details. Officials want every state to use this technology, so they have made the app's codes available to the public, found here.

The program, launched in March 2013, has already led to more than 130 unannounced health inspections, resulting in critical violations and, in some cases, restaurant closures. Local consumers are excited that the government is taking initiative, actually listening to their complaints and taking them seriously. Anyone who has been to a DMV in Chicago knows that this is not always the case.

Chicago is not alone in using new technologies to track and detect outbreaks; health officials in New York City have taken to monitoring popular online review websites to see if anyone notes cases of illness, and inspect restaurants with complaints against them. Building on this, many officials are attempting to integrate inspection reports into reviewing websites like Yelp, so potential customers have more access to information.

Far-Reaching Potential


These efforts could potentially help detect cases of massive food problems, such as the recent scandal involving a California slaughterhouse that deceived federal inspectors and sold horribly sick cattle. According to the lawsuit, the Rancho Feeding Corp.'s co-owners knowingly distributed cattle with eye cancer and sold beef that had been condemned by the USDA. It is as horrifying and disgusting as it sounds, and the co-owners have been indicted on federal charges of conspiring to distribute misbranded, adulterated, uninspected meat. They are also charged with mail fraud, and face up to 20 years in prison in addition to hundreds of thousands in fines.

This scandal broke in January 2014, launching a massive recall of Rancho's beef (around ten million pounds) from thousands of major stores and brands, including Kroger, Walmart, and Nestle products. The lawsuit alleges that the Rancho co-owners chose to purchase cattle priced much below average because they exhibited symptoms of eye cancer. They decapitated the animals and led inspectors to cattle heads that did not have signs of cancer to deceive them. Rancho also processed cattle that had been condemned by federal inspectors by carving out the "Condemned" stamps from the animals' skin.

This scandal centered on one slaughterhouse, however, there are systemic problems in the livestock industry as a whole. The USDA recently announced controversial changes to its poultry inspection program and set new requirements with the goal of reducing salmonella and compylabacter outbreaks from poultry. The program is called the New Poultry Inspection System (NPIS), and officials estimate that it will prevent 5,000 foodborne illnesses every year.

NPIS is controversial because many consumer groups actually view it as reduction to the USDA's current level of inspection. Indeed, the plan is to shift inspection duties from federal officials to industry employees. The amount of time taken to inspect chickens (140 birds per minute) will stay the same, however the speed for turkey production lines will speed up, from 51 to 55 turkeys per minute. What's more, processing plants will not be required to implement this new NPIS program - they will have a choice to stick with one of the four current inspection programs. More information on this NPIS system and its details can be found here.

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Millions of Bean Bags Recalled after Child Deaths

August 25, 2014,

555075017_c61c0bdb4c_o.jpgMore than 2.2 million bean bags made by Ace Bayou Corp. are being recalled after two children suffocated to death inside of them. The bean bags, which come in various shapes, colors, fabrics and sizes, were sold at popular stores such as Walmart and Meijer, and online at Amazon. Child product recall lawyers at Pintas & Mullins detail this recall and how consumers should fix the defects.

Ace Bayou is located in New Orleans, and sold the recalled bean bag chairs until July 2013, for anywhere between $30 and $100. The two children that died from these chairs, a three year old from Kentucky and a 13 year old from Texas, were found by their families inside the bean bags, suffocated, with foam beads in their mouths and lungs.

The defective bean bags include zipper than can easily be opened, which is how the children crawled into the bean bags in the first place. As mentioned, the bags were sold at many popular stores, including:

• Meijer
• Walmart
• Amazon.com
• Pamida
• Bon-Ton
• School Specialty
• Wayfair

Anyone who owns an Ace Bayou bean bag should contact the company right away and keep the chairs away from children of any age. Ace Bayou is offering its customers free repair kits that will prevent the zippers from opening, which can be ordered online.

Dozens of different kinds of children's products are recalled throughout the country every month, however, most parents are never informed or aware of how dangerous these products are. One study by Kids in Danger found that just 10% of recalled children's products were successfully corrected, returned, or replaced in 2012. We don't see that dire number going up any time soon without serious intervention from multiple angles.

Furniture is among the most common factors in accidental child injuries and deaths, which is why knowing about recalls and proper assembly is so important. Reporting injuries caused by defective products is also important: on average, it takes about 14 reported incidents and two injuries to initiate a product recall. Incidents, design flaws, and product failures can be submitted to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

In addition to monitoring current safety recalls, parents should keep in mind that products they find at thrift stores and second-hand shops may also be unknowingly dangerous. One child safety website notes that at least 12% of thrift and second-hand shops sells children's products that were previously recalled or violate federal safety standards. We recently wrote a post on the effectiveness, or lack thereof, of children's product recalls.

How Recalls Work, and Why They Rarely Do


The lack of awareness and enforcement is largely due to the failures in communication between manufacturers, retailers, consumers and the government. As we touched on earlier, in order for a recall to take place, consumers must report incidents to the government, which tracks these in a large database. When enough reports accrue, the government informs the manufactuer that a recall should be made (how seriously they recommend the recall depends on many circumstances). Once the manufacturer decides to issue a recall, it issues a press release and notifies retailers, such as Walmart, to take the product off their shelves and attempt to inform its customers.

Although they should, few people regularly check the CPSC website for recalls, or have updates automatically emailed to their inboxes. We strongly encourage all parents to sign up for a CPSC subscription, so you receive emails every time a recall involves infant or child products. This can be found here.

There have been several large-scale recalls already in 2014. Among them include Car Seats made by Graco (3.8 million) and Evenflo (1.3 million), Pacifier holding clips made by Playtex (1.2 million), and wall mounted lamps (3.5 million) and bed canopies (255,000) from Ikea. Graco also recalled nearly 2 million rear-facing child restraints recently.

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Unnecessary C-Sections Plague American Women

July 25, 2014,

1389252857_45cb4464cc_o.jpgOne in three American mothers deliver their first child through Cesarean section and 90% of those women who then have a second child will deliver through C-section again. It has not always been this way: in the 1970s, only 5% of all births were C-sections. The birth injury attorneys at Pintas & Mullins would like to take a step back and examine this phenomenon, why it came to be, and how it is harming American mothers.

Many people believe that Cesareans reduce the risk of serious complications for both mother and child, however, a report recently issued by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) does not confirm this. Their report actually states that the rapid increase in C-sections has not led to an equivalent decline in complications associated with delivery. In fact, the ACOG expresses deep concern that the procedure is overused in the U.S., and urges doctors to more carefully consider whether a Cesarean is necessary.

Unnecessary C-sections cost more than $5 billion per year, and, more importantly, physically harm patients, sometime fatally. The United States is one of the only places on Earth where maternal mortality (death of the mother during childbirth) is actually rising. The risk of death from C-sections compared to natural delivery is actually three times higher, and is often caused by hemorrhaging, systemic infections, and injury to major organs.

Real Women, Real Harm


Too many mothers, particularly first-time mothers, are unaware of this. They trust their doctors, and rightfully so, but are not making informed decisions for their own care. Among the consequences of C-sections is the likelihood that all children women have in the future will also be delivered by C-section.

Dr. Chileshe Price, a cardiologist at the University of Pennsylvania, is the exception to this. She is the mother of two children; the oldest was born through a C-section, her second through natural birth. This is referred to as a VBAC, or vaginal birth after Cesarean. Delivering her first child was extremely traumatic: she was in recovery for six weeks, and the pain made it difficult to rehabilitate and care for her newborn son.

Dr. Price did not want to undergo major surgery and be forced into post-op for her second child. She found it very difficult, however, to even find a doctor who would facilitate a VBAC. Most doctors are concerned about the possibility of a uterine rupture during VBAC, although the actual statistical risk of rupture is less than 1%. To see an outstanding short film on Dr. Price's journey, click this link, which will take you to the New Yorker's piece titled Unnecessary Cut.

Uterine rupture is an emergency situation that can constitute medical malpractice if the physician does not properly anticipate it. Choosing to deliver a child naturally after having a C-section needs to be the right thing from a medical perspective, and it is important to measure the risks and benefits. Of course, if we reduced the amount of first-birth C-sections, second-time mothers would not have to worry about the VBAC in the first place.

Why Progress Is Not Being Made


Some hospitals in California have an 83% rate of primary C-sections in first-time moms. That is a major problem. It is impossible to believe that more than three-quarters of human beings need major surgery to have a child, when just forty years ago, less than 5% required the procedure. What makes this even more difficult to understand is how much we know about the dangers: the first papers expressing concern about the rising C-section rates were published in 1976, so it is far from a new issue.

The truth of the matter is, C-sections decrease doctors' workloads. Many new moms are in labor for up to 20 hours; C-sections take 30 minutes to complete. As Dr. Neel Shah, an obstetrician at Harvard Medical School put it, medical textbooks teach doctors to treat the patient in front of them; but the labor floor does not work like that. Obstetricians in the real world have to treat the patient in front of them while their pager is going off, while three other patients are in active labor, all at once.

Obstetricians have extremely heavy workloads, and C-sections significantly expedite the labor process. This is not being done out of laziness - many of them are ordering the procedure in good faith. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists used to recommend that a normal birth for first time mothers who receive an epidural would be about three hours of pushing. Beyond three hours, and the delivery becomes abnormal.

Doctors throughout the country interpreted this recommendation by ordering C-sections
for most moms who push longer than three hours. The ACOG recognized that this was unintentionally encouraging C-sections, and recently released new guidelines that allow more time for the delivery process. With hope, the new criteria will help drive down the rates.

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Six Flags Sued After Roller Coaster Accident

July 23, 2014,

six-flags-new-orleans-2.jpgThe Six Flags Magic Mountain in Southern California is being sued by two injured visitors after the Ninja roller coaster they were on struck a tree. The ride partially derailed, leaving everyone on the ride stranded until they could evacuate. The two visitors now suing the amusement park were hospitalized for their injuries. Roller coaster accident attorneys at Pintas & Mullins urge anyone injured at a theme park to contact our firm immediately.

The plaintiffs filed suit in Los Angeles County Superior Court, arguing that Six Flags' negligence caused the ride to be unusually defective, hazardous, unsafe, and dangerous. The accident was caused by a free that had fallen on the roller coaster but was not removed. More than 20 riders were stranded about 40 feet off the ground after the ride derailed. They were stuck for nearly three hours.

Six Flags is also accused of failing to provide a safe and fit ride, directly leading to injuries and damages. A branch from the fallen tree hit one of the plaintiffs in the head just before the ride derailed, and he was hospitalized and treated for a minor head injury. He told the LA Times that he heard a loud crack when the tree fell onto the tracks and he ducked down to miss the trunk of the tree, though a branch hit his head causing some bleeding.

California safety officials opened an investigation into the Ninja's derailment, where they collected witness statements and interviewed park personnel. Witnesses described seeing the tree fall across the coaster tracks around 6 PM that evening, when the ride was already in motion and heading toward it. They described seeing the Ninja go into the trees, then hearing a cracking noise followed by a chorus of screaming.

A Brief Overview of Amusement Park Litigation


A similar lawsuit was recently filed against Disneyland Resort, after a man was injured on Splash Mountain. The jury in this case found Disneyland to be negligent and responsible for the accident. Lawsuits against amusement parks are actually quite common, particularly in the summer months when residents in northern states visit in large numbers.

One roller coaster accident at Darien Lake Amusement Park ended in tragedy, when an Iraq War veteran lost his life. Army Sergeant James Hackemer visited the park in 2011, no small feat after losing both legs and part of his hip in Iraq. Despite his lack of body mass, park operators allowed him to go on the Ride of Steel roller coaster. Because of his amputations, Hackemer was traumatically ejected from the roller coaster while it was in operation, later dying from the injuries.

His family sued the park on his behalf, accusing it of inadequately training its ride operators and allowing Hackemer on the ride when he should not have been. Investigators cited operator error as the direct cause of the fatal accident. Darien Lakes does have signs up throughout the park indicating the riders must have two legs to go on rides - particularly roller coasters - however, Hackemer's family stated that no one stopped him before going on the Ride of Steel.

Darien Lake Amusement Park agreed to settle the lawsuit in an undisclosed amount, however it is reported that his daughters will receive seven-figure funds when they turn 18. In addition to inadequate training, Darien Lakes was also accused of recklessness and negligence.

Not all amusement park lawsuits are successful in court, however. A woman recently attempted to sue Great America after she sustained a wrist injury while riding bumper cars. A bumper car struck her own head-on, causing her wrist to break. She consequently sued the park for failing to take the necessary precautions to stop such an accident, however the California court ruled that her wrist injury was a foreseeable and assumed risk of bumper cars.

Other accidents, though minor in nature, can be successfully pursued in court because they were outlandish or not assumed risks of the ride. For example, a woman in Pennsylvania recently won her case against Palisades Park after she slipped at the water park and injured her knee. The woman was taking her infant son down a kiddie water slide and slipped on the mattress-like pad at the bottom of the slide. She fell against a hard object in the pool, causing a deep laceration to her knee that exposed knee tissue.

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Lead Paint Companies Ordered to Pay Over $1 Billion

July 14, 2014,

2763836301_2e5b68e0df_o.jpgSherwin-Williams, one of the largest and most-recognized paint companies, was recently ordered to pay $1.15 billion to fund a program aimed at addressing the health risks of lead paint exposure in California homes. Sherwin, along with two other major paint companies, was found liable for selling lead paint despite knowledge of its dangers. Lead paint exposure attorneys at Pintas & Mullins detail this decade-long case, and how it will impact California residents.

The case was originally filed in 2000, on behalf of California residents in Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, and seven other cities in the state. The final $1.15 billion settlement was ordered by a California Superior Court Judge, who stated that the public had a right to be free from the harmful effects of lead in paint. We have seen first-hand the effects of lead poisoning, and can say without doubt that lead-based paint has caused harm to entire communities, considerably interfering with quality of life.

The paint companies at issue - Sherwin-Williams, ConAgra Grocery Products, and NL Industries - are accused of continuing to sell lead-based paint even after becoming aware of its dangers. The health effects of lead exposure are now well-known and medically and scientifically documented, especially among children.

The $1.15 billion will establish a government-run program that will benefit those California residents who continue to be exposed to lead-based paint. Due to limited resources, the current government programs have not been able to meaningfully reduce the number of California homes containing lead paint.

Because of this widespread failure, the court order targets homes in the 10 previously-mentioned jurisdictions that have the greatest risk of lead poisoning to children. The program will reach out to residents, send trained inspectors to their homes, and educate them on the risks of lead paint. The judge stated that there are thousands of children in California whose lives will be significantly improved, or even saved, through this lead abatement plan.

The paint companies plan to appeal the decision, however. The three companies at issue claim that they did not fully know about the hazards of lead-based paint until it was officially banned in 1978. How true this is has been subject to much debate.

Real Stories From Real Victims


We have worked with many victims of lead poisoning over the past 35 years, and know first-hand how dangerous it can be. Children exposed to paint in their homes demonstrate severe developmental delays, and even small amounts of lead can cause serious problems. Importantly, children under the age of six are most vulnerable to lead poisoning, which manifest through their mental and physical development. At high levels, lead poisoning can even be fatal.

Lead-based paint is the most common source of lead poisoning in children, however, adults who work in auto repair shops, do home renovations, and work with batteries may also be exposed. Some of the major signs of lead poisoning in children include:

• Learning difficulties
• Hearing loss
• Sluggishness and fatigue
• Loss of appetite and weight loss
• Abdominal pain, constipation or vomiting
• Irritability

Symptoms are similar in adults, but can also include:

• Miscarriage or premature births in pregnant women
• Mood disorders
• High blood pressure
• Muscle and joint pain
• Pain, numbness or tingling of the extremities
• Declines in mental functioning

In a typical lead exposure case, parents notice symptoms in children and bring their child to a pediatrician. Depending on the severity of symptoms, the doctor may or may not immediately identify lead poisoning as the cause, but will run blood tests and x-rays to be sure. Once lead poisoning has been confirmed, the doctor usually notifies public health officials, who perform lead tests in the home.

The first step in treating lead poisoning is to remove the source of exposure, such as sealing in or removing lead paint. Local health departments can best recommend ways to reduce lead in your home. For more severe cases, medications can be prescribed to treat and help cure poisoning.

Continue reading "Lead Paint Companies Ordered to Pay Over $1 Billion " »

Four Drowning Deaths in Chicago Last Weekend - And How to Help Prevent Them

June 17, 2014,

1092398900_d37f68a64c_b.jpgThe weekend of June 13th, 2014, four Chicago children died from drowning, ages three to nine years old. In Chicago and most of the Midwest, there are only a handful of summer months and - rightfully so - families do their best to make them best of warm weather.

Unfortunately, this makes children vulnerable to drowning and pool accidents, which can be deadly. Pool drowning lawyers at Pintas & Mullins take a closer look into these cases and what can be done to prevent more from happening.

Two of the children were in pools - the three-year-old in a relative's private pool and the four-year-old in his family's suburban country club. The youngest victim was at a family gathering and was playing in a large above-ground pool when the accident occurred.

The toddler was initially wearing inflatable floaties on his arms, but took them off when he got out of the pool. The floaties were not put back on him before he got into the pool a second time. As at most gatherings, his parents and siblings were busy talking and playing with other family members, when all of a sudden the three-year-old was out of sight. His family told the Chicago Tribune that the incident took only a few seconds, however, the boy was pronounced dead in the emergency room.

The four-year-old was at a country club in St. Charles, Illinois when the drowning occurred. It is still unclear whether or not there as a lifeguard on duty, however the coroner determined his death was tragic accident.

Two brothers also fell victim to drowning accidents over the weekend when they were swimming gin a large water-filled area in western Indiana. The brothers, eight- and nine-years-old, were pronounced dead in the later evening hours. Their relatives told the press that they were playing with friends who urged the boys to swim into the open area that had been excavated and filled with water. Soon after they entered the pit they started to struggle to swim and their friends ran for help, which came too late.

How You Can Help

Pool accidents are extremely common in the U.S., as is unintentional drowning and other water-related accidents. According to the CDC, and as evidenced by last week's drownings, males are significantly more likely to die in drowning accidents than females. Children aged one to four have the highest rates of drowning, most of which occur in swimming pools.

For every child who suffer fatal drowning accidents, another five are taken to emergency rooms for treatment, including substantial lack of oxygen that can require long-term, even lifetime care. Particularly in small children, lack of oxygen can cause severe brain damage such as learning disabilities, memory problems, and even permanent loss of basic functioning.

These statistics do not take into account boating-related accidents, which more frequently affect older men, and take about 350 lives per year. Not surprisingly, alcohol use is a large factor in boating accidents, and is responsible for about one in five reported boating deaths.

Other factors that influence drowning risk include:

• Lack of swilling skills - formal lessons significantly reduces drowning risk
• Barriers, such as fencing, stop children from accessing pools. Four-sided isolation is best
• Lack of close supervision. Drowning can happen quickly and quietly, even in the bathtub.
• Location: most children drown in pools, and adolescents and adults in natural waters.
• Life jackets, like helmets, are less than attractive but extremely necessary.
• Seizure disorders. Drowning is actually the leading cause of unintentional injury and death for those with seizure disorders, with most occurring in the bathtub.

Continue reading "Four Drowning Deaths in Chicago Last Weekend - And How to Help Prevent Them" »

Dozens Charged for $260 Million in Medicare Fraud

May 14, 2014,

afternoon-walk-1.jpgWhistleblower lawyers at Pintas & Mullins announce that 90 people have been charged for generating over $260 million worth of false Medicare billings. The fraud was discovered by a federal task force, and among those charged are at least 16 doctors. Our whistleblower attorneys explain this case and detail what you can do to stop Medicare fraud.

The Medicare Fraud Strike Force is a joint effort established in 2007 by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Justice Department. This most recent strike was conducted in Miami, Tampa, and Los Angeles, among other cities.

In Los Angeles, several doctors were arrested for receiving kickbacks - or cash incentives - to refer Medicare patients to companies that sold faulty wheelchairs and other medical equipment. Those charged in Tampa were part of an alleged scheme that defrauded Medicare for $12 million. The Tampa suspects billed Medicare for services at healthcare clinics using names of patients who actually lived near Miami, nearly 300 miles away.

Unfortunately, Medicare and Medicaid fraud is quite common, which is why the government has set up a dedicated task force to help stop it. Individuals, too, are able and very much encouraged to turn in people defrauding the government in any way.

Whistleblowers and Qui Tam Actions


The False Claim Act allows private citizens to sue on behalf of the government when they know that a company or person is defrauding a government spending program, such as Medicare. This is a huge problem for many reasons, most notably because it hurts one of our country's most vulnerable populations, the elderly.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder states that Medicare is a "sacred compact with our nation's seniors," and in order to protect it, "we must remain aggressive in combating fraud." Most nursing home residents rely on Medicare for their health coverage, which they direly need.

An important note to those with loved ones in nursing homes using Medicare: residents in Medicare or Medicaid-certified nursing homes have certain rights and protections under the law. The nursing home must inform residents of these rights and explain them in writing. More information on these rights may be found here.

Lawsuits filed under the False Claims Act are considered "qui tam," or "whistleblower" actions. On behalf of whistleblowers, attorneys like our team at Pintas & Mullins bring qui tam actions involving government fraud, and the government investigates the situation to decide if it will take part in the lawsuit.

Whistleblowers may bring lawsuits when the government has made payments based on false claims, false certifications, or if the government has not been paid money owed to it. The False Claims Act does not apply to situations where the government simply made an unwise decision, and does not apply to cases of mistakes or negligence.

If a whistleblower is aware of blatant fraud and a lawsuit results, that whistleblower is entitled to between 15 and 25% of any money the government gains back. For example, a former employee of a roofing company resigned in 2009 because he believed the company was acting unethically. He worked for the roofing company for over 20 years, and his complaints were never addressed, so he reported his concerns to the federal government.

Continue reading "Dozens Charged for $260 Million in Medicare Fraud " »

Jury Sides with Woman Claiming Baby Powder Caused Ovarian Cancer

12795954293_399fde367a_c.jpgIn a lawsuit brought by a woman in South Dakota, the jury recently ruled that Johnson & Johnson should be held liable for selling a product - talcum powder - that caused her to develop ovarian cancer. The jury decided that the company should have warned women of this risk. Talc powder attorneys at Pintas & Mullins take a closer look at this case and others like it.

Throughout trial, several doctors were called to analyze the woman's ovarian cancer and whether or not talcum powder was involved in its development. After examining samples of her cancerous tissue, the physicians did find talc powder in her cancer cells and determined that the two were linked. The jury ultimately agreed that J&J failed to warn consumers about the product's association with ovarian cancer.

One of these physicians, a doctor at Harvard University, estimates that talcum powders is a likely factor in about 10,000 cases of ovarian cancer every year. Ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause of cancer death in females, taking about 15,000 lives per year.

Talcum powder, better known as baby powder, has been used for decades to treat a wide array of skin issues. Talc-based body powders are also sometimes used for feminine hygiene, which is what led to the plaintiff's ovarian cancer.

The plaintiff in this case had used talcum-based products for hygiene for about 30 years, and claimed that she never once saw a warning about the risk of cancer development. The first time she ever heard about this risk was in 2006, after her diagnosis.

The first talcum-related ovarian cancer lawsuit was filed in 2009, by a woman in Mississippi. After it was filed the Mississippi attorney general launched an investigation into Johnson & Johnson's talcum-based products and the company's promotion of them for feminine hygiene.

Studies Confirm

The National Cancer Institute and the National Institutes of Health recently funded a study that aimed to determine the actual incidence of ovarian cancer caused by talcum powder. Researchers found that using talc powder increased the risk of cancer development by between 36 and 41%. The study authors advised women to immediately stop using talcum-based products.

Continue reading "Jury Sides with Woman Claiming Baby Powder Caused Ovarian Cancer " »

Baby Gates Sending Thousands of Children to Emergency Rooms

4938743911_d47a26945b_o.jpgChild injury attorneys at Pintas & Mullins report on a troubling statistic about ever-popular baby gates. New studies show that nearly 2,000 children are treated in emergency rooms in the United States every year due to these gates.

The new study was conducted by the Nationwide Children's Hospital, which focused its data on children under six-years-old who were injured from gate-related injuries. Baby gates are commonly used to keep small children safe, but the gates themselves can be hazardous.

Fortunately, most injuries did not require hospitalization, but there were several thousand fractures and brain injuries. The Executive Director at nonprofit advocacy group Kids in Danger stated that the gates oftentimes do not hold weight properly, causing it to fall over.

Currently, there are no federal safety regulations for baby gate design. This surprises many people (and should!) because these products can be found in nearly every home with children in it. Safety standards are only voluntary, so manufacturers can choose not to include various features like wall installation hardware.

Child safety advocates note that many injuries may be caused by parents who use the wrong type of gate. Some products come with hardware that requires installation into a wall; this is the only type of gate that should be used at the top of a staircase. Pressure-mounted gates are better used to separate rooms or at the bottom of stairs, but they should be regularly checked for a secure fit, so that what is meant to protect children does not accidentally harm them.

Most of the children injured by these gates were boys over the age of two, and about 16% of all injured children suffered concussions. Experts believe that injuries related to baby gates are on the rise because parents are using them more often - which is a good thing, if they are installed and maintained properly.

And they are on the rise: between 1990 and 2010, the number of children injured by baby gates quadrupled. One of the study authors noted that the public needs to do a better job determining where the gates are installed, and ensuring they fit securely.

A tip from the experts: use gates in homes with children aged six months to two years, make sure that all hardware-mounted gates are used at the top of the stairs, and pressure-mounted gates at the bottom or between rooms.

Continue reading "Baby Gates Sending Thousands of Children to Emergency Rooms" »

Major TVM Lawsuit Updates

judge-hand-with-gavel-5.jpgTransvaginal mesh attorneys at Pintas & Mullins have several updates to report on concerning the massive litigation against manufacturers. Most recently, American Medical Systems agreed to pay $830 million to resolve tens of thousands of lawsuits filed by women injured by the transvaginal mesh implants. Just a few days earlier, a woman in Texas was awarded $1.2 million for the injuries she suffered from the TVT-O sling.

The $1.2 verdict was the first award against Johnson & Johnson for this TVT-O sling implant. Vaginal-mesh products like this were implanted in women to treat stress urinary incontinence (SUI) and pelvic organ prolapse (POP), however, the implants were rushed through the FDA approval process and turned out to be extremely defective.

Defective may even be putting it mildly. As discussed in prior posts on this blog, TVM products have caused extremely severe, painful, and often permanent injuries in women who were implanted. Further complicating the issue, the manufacturers overwhelmingly failed to inform physicians and patients that these implants were defective, causing hundreds of thousands of women to undergo mesh procedures without being fully aware of the risks.

Due to this glaring negligence, all nine companies that made these TVM products are now facing massive litigation from injured women. Among the injuries these devices have caused include: implant erosion, forced surgeries, hysterectomies, scarring, organ perforation, uncontrolled bleeding, infections, and other irreversible damages.

Johnson & Johnson alone is currently facing over 12,000 lawsuits for improperly designing TVM implants. In 2013, another jury ruled that the company had to pay a single plaintiff $11 million in damages. The device at issue in that case was the Prolift, which was implanted in women to support sagging organs. This type of condition is common in older women whose pelvic muscles and organs weakened after childbirth and pregnancy.

FDA Warning & $830 Million Payout


The American Medical Systems (AMS) settlement comes on the heels of the Texas case. This company is facing over 22,000 lawsuits over their products. Just a few days before, the FDA announced that it was reclassifying vaginal mesh products as high-risk devices.

The federal agency issued two proposed orders that would, first, reclassify the mesh products as "high-risk" devices, and second, would require manufacturers to apply for pre-market approval with the agency before sale. The FDA confirmed that there are significant risks associated with TVM implants, and aims to make them more safe and effective and protect vulnerable patients from harm.

In addition to J&J and AMS, seven other companies manufactured TVM implants, including C.R. Bard, Boston Scientific, Coloplast, Cook Medical, and Neomedic. At present, about 45,000 TVM lawsuits are pending in federal court - a number that continues to grow by the day.

AMS had previously set aside $250 million to cover the TVM litigation, so this most recent announcement pushes the total settlement costs to about $1 billion. The company will also be paying for all plaintiffs' legal fees.

Continue reading "Major TVM Lawsuit Updates" »