Postal Worker Attacked by Loose Dog

April 17, 2014,

2325986418_7b348b3bcc_b.jpgAn Oregon postal worker recently filed a lawsuit against the owner of an abnormally dangerous dog after the canine attacked her, causing serious facial injuries. More than 5,000 postal workers are attacked by dogs every year in the United States, posing a significant risk to hard-working employees. Dog bite attorneys at Pintas & Mullins recommend a few ways dog owners can help prevent serious incidents like this.

Dog attacks are a nationwide issue, not just for postal workers but for anyone in the vicinity of a dangerous or loose dog - nearly 4.5 million Americans are bitten by dogs each year, and half of these incidents involve children. According to the CDC, about one in five dog bites result in injuries that require medical attention.

The Oregon case involves a postal worker who was delivering mail in a neighborhood in Eugene when she was attacked by a Siberian Husky. The dog was on a leash, but had escaped the grasp of its owner. As stated, the woman suffered serious injuries to her face and is now seeking over $180,000 in damages related to the medical care she required.

Large dogs like Siberian Husky, Rottweilers and German Shepherds are not inherently more likely to bite or attack people than any other breed - but if they do, they cause significantly more harm than smaller breeds purely because of their size and power.

Any type of dog has the potential to bite if they feel they or their property or family are threatened. Bites and attacks are largely preventable, however, if owners took the necessary steps. Here are a few tips for owners to prevent dog bites and attacks:

• Work with a veterinarian and trainer when you first bring a new dog into your household

• Be sensitive to cues that a child is apprehensive about a dog, or visa versa

• Spay/neuter your dog to reduce aggressive tendancies, and do not play aggressively with it

• NEVER leave young children alone with any dog

• Properly socialize and train your dog, and seek professional advice about undesirable behavior

• Teach children basic safety tips about unfamiliar dogs or how to properly act around them

• Immediately report stray dogs

In the instance of postal workers, dogs can often perceive them as a threat because they are entering their territory. Dog owners are urged to keep their dog inside, away from the door, and in another room when a postal worker arrives. It is important to note, however, that dogs that receive little attention or handling, or are left tied up for long periods frequently turn into aggressive dogs.

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Best App for Athlete Concussion Help

April 7, 2014,

9400289014_b19d818b62_c.jpgThere are now many different types of smartphone applications that aim to help parents, coaches and others on the sidelines manage athletes who suffer a concussion. Although the influx of different apps is promising and indeed very helpful, it can be difficult to determine which one is best or which type of assessment tool is right for your specific situation. Traumatic brain injury attorneys at Pintas & Mullins outline a few tips on how to choose the right app for you and your family.

A team of researchers recently conducted a review of 18 of the best mobile concussion assessment applications, 13 of which were free to download. The authors noted that these apps should not be used as a 'do-it-yourself' guide in place of a physician, but should be a tool to help players with suspected concussions seek and provide accurate information to medical providers.

Researchers ranked the apps, which were designed for public use, in three different categories most important in concussions: balance, TBI symptoms, and memory function. Each of the areas had a ranking system of zero to two - two meaning all necessary diagnostic information was complete, and zero meaning there was no information.

The apps that scored the highest in completeness were designed around the Sport Concussion Assessment Tool 2, which is the international standard for concussion diagnosis. Among the best was an app called "Concussion," which scored twos in memory function and symptoms, and "ImPACT Concussion Awareness Tool." Two of the analyzed apps scored zeroes in all three categories, however.

Now for a few tips on choosing the best app for your unique purposes:

• Make sure the app is intended for public use and not just for medical professionals

• Many of the best apps were endorsed by a recognized agency or organization, such as the Concussion in Sport Group

• The worst apps had advertisements or commercial messages

• The best apps also contained references to best practice standard and had clear contact information for support

One of the apps studied, created by Hockey Canada Concussion Awareness for Kids, was designed specifically to educate children on sports concussions (though, as the name implies, it is intended almost exclusively for hockey players). Another was an easy-to-use mobile version of the King-Devick test. Among the best were: the "Concussion Recognition and Response," and the "Concussion App from Sports Safety labs LLC."

Too often, high school and college athletes continue to play in games after suffering a concussion or other type of TBI. In fact, a new study concluded that more than half of high school athletes with concussions play despite their symptoms and without informing coaches of their injuries.

Most states now have laws that aim to prevent unrecognized concussions, however, young athletes are still trying to hide their symptoms simply because they want to stay in the game. In other words, they consider the short-term consequences of leaving the game more important than the possibility of long-term repercussions. If a concussion is left untreated, or if further injury is inflicted on top of a concussion, the results can be devastating or even fatal.

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Minor League Baseball Players Sue MLB for Wage Violations

April 3, 2014,

7632338498_d081455444_c.jpgWage, hour and overtime lawyers at Pintas & Mullins report on the recent lawsuit against Major League Baseball (MLB) over long-standing wage violations. The suit now includes former players from 17 different minor league teams, and specifically cites violations of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.

The former players are claiming that they and their peers are powerless against the reign of the MLB organization, and that they are required to put in obscene hours of work for abysmal pay. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) was enacted in 1938, and states that employees may not be paid less than the minimum wage, which is currently $7.25 per hour.

Among its provisions, the FLSA also requires all employees to be paid overtime (time-and-a-half) for any work performed beyond 40 hours in a week. Legal and sports analysts confirm that baseball franchises are not exempt from the FLSA, so it is very unlikely that the MLB will be able to have the suit dismissed right away.

This case, Senne v. MLB, is interesting for many reasons: most relevantly because college football players at Northwestern University recently won the right to unionize. Athletes from different disciplines are starting to voice their grievances against the sports culture that is inextricable from American life. NFL players want recognition of and protection from repeated, dangerous head injuries; college players are fed up with a corrupt payment system; and baseball players wish to be paid for their immense labor.

The Northwestern case may not be the best parallel, but it is certainly interesting to consider. In that decision, a director of the National Labor Relations Board ruled that football players on scholarship were employees of the university, and should have the right to unionize to leverage for larger scholarships, better healthcare coverage, and other benefits. This was based on the stipulations of the National Labor Relations Act, and Northwestern plans to appeal the ruling.

The exploitation of athletes is nothing new - there are countless movies and stories about the hardships they endure for the love of the game. "It's supposed to be hard," Tom Hanks' character exclaims in A League of Their Own, "if it were easy, everyone would do it."

At present, the base salary for a minor league baseball player is $1,100 per month - less than a full-time fast food worker. There is no minor league union, like there is now for Northwester players, so negotiating a pay raise, one would imagine, is quite audacious. Minor leaguers throughout the country live in the smallest, most crowded apartments, must shop at Walmart, and eat pizza and ramen for fuel. They sleep on air mattresses and are expected to put in long days as professional athletes.

Long days often turn into long nights; for an evening game, players typically show up at noon to practice, the game starts at seven, and is finished around ten or eleven at night. The schedule is the same throughout the season, six days per week. They are not paid overtime, are able to take very few days off, and if they complain, are fired without severance. Only a few will ever make the majors.

In any other conventional industry, this would be illegal, which is exactly the point minor leaguers are trying to make now. They are undoubtedly spurred by the massive increase in major league baseball players' salaries: since 1976, big league salaries have risen by over 2,000%, while minor league salaries increased only 75%, failing even to keep up with inflation.

Continue reading "Minor League Baseball Players Sue MLB for Wage Violations" »

Worker Nearly Killed by Chainsaw Kickback

April 2, 2014,

8002037965_b6e9b4aad9_h.jpgA tree service worker in Pennsylvania is alive to tell a horrifying tale. The 21-year-old was just released from the hospital after his own chainsaw tore into his shoulder and neck, missing vital arteries by mere centimeters. Workers' compensation attorneys at Pintas & Mullins are happy to report that he will make a full recovery, and are here to help anyone injured in a similar accident.

The 21-year-old, Jason Valentine, is employed by Adler Tree Service just north of Pittsburgh. On that March day, he was in a pine tree cutting at an unusual angle to avoid hitting active power lines. In the blink of an eye, the chainsaw kicked back and entered his left shoulder and sliced into his neck still running.

Fortunately, several of his Adler co-workers saw the terrible accident and rushed to his assist him, calling an ambulance to the scene. It was critically important, his doctors note, that his co-workers did not try to remove the chainsaw from his neck whatsoever. They were able to detach the blade from its motor - to ensure the saw did not start running again - but left the blade and chain precisely where it landed in his neck.

First responders arrived at the scene and brought him to a nearby hospital. According to CNN, he was awake and alert the entire ten minute ambulance ride. After an hour of surgery and 30 stitches, doctors told his family that the blade was just a quarter of an inch away from his carotid artery, which carries blood to the brain.

His trauma surgeon stated that this type of injury typically causes extraordinary damage, severing the spinal cord, airway or esophagus and causing paralysis or death. In Valentine's case, the saw missed all major organs and arteries, slicing through muscle and soft tissue instead. He will take a few days to recover but hopes to get back to his job as a "tree climber" as soon as possible.

The Aftermath - How to Help your Workers' Comp Case

If you or someone you love was injured while on the job, you may be able to file a workers' compensation claim to help you pay for any medical bills or lost wages. How you go about filing such a claim is very important. Here are a few tips:

• First, report the precise injury to your employer as soon as possible. If your employer does not respond, write out a report and send it to them.

• Call a lawyer who deals with these types of cases. Whatever you tell your attorney is confidential, so be sure to tell them exactly what happened in detail.

• Make sure to go to all follow-up doctor and physical therapy appointments. Having documentation of your injury and its severity is very important, and will do more to prove your case than anything else.

• Lastly, do not speak to anyone except your doctor and attorney about the accident. Your employer's insurance company will do everything in its power to try to minimize your injury and pay as little as possible to you and your family. If you post about the injury on any social media sites - even if they are listed as "private," - they will know.

Continue reading "Worker Nearly Killed by Chainsaw Kickback " »

Johnson & Johnson Accused of Destroying Documents in TVM Trial

April 1, 2014,

8488196507_94fc4349f8.jpgThe initial trials over Johnson & Johnson's transvaginal mesh (TVM) products are well underway in West Virginia, where the majority of cases are consolidated. Lawyers for the women injured by TVM are now arguing that J&J intentionally destroyed many internal documents that are critical to their lawsuits. Transvaginal mesh lawyers at Pintas & Mullins take a closer look at these accusations and how it could impact trial outcomes.

Injured plaintiffs and their lawyers are now calling on the Department of Justice to investigate their claims, and many nonprofit groups have written personally to Attorney General Eric Holder request his department look into the matter. They are claiming that J&J and its CEO deliberately obstructed justice by destroying its internal records regarding the TVM products.

TVM implants were widely prescribed to treat pelvic organ prolapse and stress urinary incontinence. The mesh products were aggressively marketed to those with these chronic, often extremely painful conditions, despite premarket studies that showed the implants could cause even more devastation once implanted.

Although J&J and other manufacturers knew the implants could cause serious, life-altering side effects, they decided not to inform patients or even physicians about this possibility. As a result, hundreds of thousands of women were implanted with TVM devices and are now suffering wide-spread, permanent injuries.

Among the injuries include:

• Mesh erosion through the vaginal wall, requiring multiple surgeries
• Chronic, debilitating pain
• Serious infections and bleeding
• Bowel, bladder or blood vessel perforation
• Painful urination and sexual intercourse
• Vaginal shortening and tightening

There are six other TVM manufacturers, including Gynecare and C.R. Bard, which makes the Avaulta and Prolift meshes, respectively. All six companies have set aside millions of dollars to settle TVM lawsuits, and J&J specifically has allotted about $520 million to resolve over 22,000 claims. Earlier this year, the Judge overseeing these cases against the pharmaceutical giant stated that, although there is proof the company destroyed thousands of documents related to its TVM implants, there is not proof it was done intentionally or maliciously.

The documents of concern included reports of tests on patients, which detailed all serious side effects and complications patients experienced after being implanted. Knowing this, it is somewhat difficult to believe the documents were destroyed unintentionally, particularly because we now know how egregious the injuries actually are.

Other documents recently revealed in court have shown that J&J kept close ties with physicians and gave them cash incentives to prescribe the meshes. This would, in part, explain why such a poorly-tested implant would be recommended for so many women, before it's true efficacy and safety risks were known.

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Wal-Mart Recalls Dolls Due to Burn Risk

March 26, 2014,

13408533055_d90f2cb2bf.jpgBurn injury attorneys at Pintas & Mullins warn consumers that 'Cuddle Care' Dolls, sold in Wal-Marts throughout the U.S. were recently recalled. The My Sweet Love/My Sweet Baby Cuddle Care Baby Dolls can overheat, creating serious burn hazards. To date there have been at least twelve reports of child injury.

The defective dolls are battery-powered, and come with a medical kit including a stethoscope, syringe, and thermometer. The dolls get 'sick' on cue, coughing and becoming flushed, so children can take care of them.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the circuit board inside the dolls, which cause them to cough and babble, can overheat. If this occurs while a child is playing with it, the child is likely to be burned wherever he or she is in contact with the doll. In many of the burn incidents reported to Wal-Mart, burns and blisters occurred on the hands. Consumers who purchased these dolls may return them to Wal-Mart for a full refund.

Another children's product, bed canopies sold at IKEA, were also recently recalled. These bed canopies have pointed tops with mesh fabric, and may pose a strangulation risk to infants and small children. CPSC asserts that the canopies can become easily entangled, enabling children to wrap the mesh canopy around their neck.

The recalled products are hung from the ceiling, measure about seven feet long, and splay over a child's crib of bed. There have been nearly a dozen reports of children getting entangled in the canopy, including several involving potential strangulation. Like the My Sweet Dolls, consumers who purchased the recalled canopies can return them to any IKEA store for a full refund.

Recalls Unlikely to Prevent Injury and Death

We recently wrote that most recalled child's products remain in homes even after the recall is announced. This is largely due to inadequate and ineffective collaboration between companies that manufacture recalled products, retailers like Wal-Mart that sell them, and the federal government which oversees product recalls.

In that article we outlined the troubling data surrounding this issue: of the 11 units of children's products recalled last year, only 10% were ever fixed or returned to the store. That means that 90% of the dangerous, defective children's products remained in American homes, posing serious hazards to families.

Advocacy groups - specifically, Kids in Danger, which released the cited report - are now pushing manufacturers and retailers to take to social media and other outlets to increase awareness of child product recalls. They recommend that families are often online anyway, so posting recalls and defective children's products on Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook may be an important step in solving this issue.

In its part to heighten awareness, the CPSC recently launched a Poison Prevention Information Center. On its website, federal officials assert that unintentional poisonings kill about 30 children every year in the U.S., and highlight a few ways to keep your child out of danger. Among their recommendations include:

• Always using and re-sealing child safety caps
• Keep the poison control hotline (1.800.222.1222) nearby
• Lock all poisons and medicines and keep them away from a child's sight and reach

The agency specifically mentions a few products that have been poisoning children in large numbers recently. These include laundry detergent single-load packets, button batteries, and carbon monoxide risks. Tide and other laundry detergent manufacturers are currently facing poisoning lawsuits after children came in contact with the single-load packets. Parents are claiming that the containers had inadequate warnings and did not have any child-proof packaging to prevent accidental exposure.

Continue reading "Wal-Mart Recalls Dolls Due to Burn Risk" »

New Poison, Liquid Nicotine, Unregulated by Feds

March 24, 2014,

510n-e-cigarette-and-e-liquids_l.jpgThe recent surge in the popularity of e-cigarettes is creating regulatory and exposure issues throughout the country. Since these products are so new, no one is yet sure how they will affect the health and safety of those who consume them. What is known, however, is the harmful and even fatal effects of one e-cigarette ingredient, liquid nicotine. Our team of toxic exposure attorneys takes a closer look at this drug and why it remains unregulated by federal authorities.

Liquid nicotine is extracted from tobacco and mixed with several types of chemicals, resulting in a powerful, stimulating neurotoxin. This and the other ingredients inside e-cigarettes, referred to as e-liquids, can cause seizures, vomiting, and other fatal complications even if ingested in minuscule amounts. Just a teaspoon of highly-diluted e-liquids can kill a child.

To make e-cigarettes, these liquids are combined in factories and shops throughout the country, then sold to physical and online stores in small bottles. Consumers may then buy these bottles, which are completely unregulated, and do with them what they please.

Toxicologists nationwide are warning the public about the dangers of e-liquids. They assert that children, particularly small children, are most at risk of accidentally ingesting the liquids because they are so often packaged in brightly colored bottles, with flavorings like cherry, bubble gum or chocolate. It's not a question of if this will happen, they say, it's a matter of when.

Indeed, reports of accidental ingestion among American children have skyrocketed. Between 2012 and 2013, the number of poison control calls linked to e-cigarettes jumped 300%. About 365 people were referred to emergency departments. A large proportion of those reports were in children aged two and under.

A Problem Needing a Solution

E-cigarettes are a multibillion-dollar industry, initially touted as a 'healthier' alternative to traditional cigarette smoking. This may be true in the long-run, but in terms of immediate poison risk, e-cigarettes are far more dangerous than tobacco products. This is due to many factors, most poignantly that the liquids can be absorbed much more quickly by the body, even if they are very highly diluted.

These products have been met with their share of opposition - they are banned in public places in major cities like Chicago, New York City, and Los Angeles. City officials cited the unknown nature of many of the chemicals used in these products and the long-term health effects of e-cigarettes and second-hand exposure.

Conversely, those in the e-cigarette industry believe the bans and restrictions are based on non-scientific assumptions rather than hard data. Despite this, the FDA is currently in the midst of proposing a rule that would bring e-cigarettes under its jurisdiction, so they could be regulated at a national level. The agency has not revealed how it plans to approach the industry.

Until this happens, e-liquids will continue to be among the most potent naturally-occurring toxins in the U.S. and they will be available to almost everyone, everywhere. Reports of poisoning are not exclusive to children. In Kentucky, a woman was rushed to the hospital for serious heart problems after her e-cigarette broke on her bed, spilling the e-liquid, which was then absorbed through her skin.

Regardless of age, the problem with e-liquid exposure is that many people do not realize how dangerously toxic the chemicals are. Insiders estimate that 2014 will bring sales of one to two million liters of e-liquid. The chemicals are widely available for public purchase online, in as much as 55 gallons.

Continue reading "New Poison, Liquid Nicotine, Unregulated by Feds" »

Birth Injury from Toxic Exposure, A Silent Pandemic

March 19, 2014,

2237365962_1c071a7d20.jpgThe average American, including expectant mothers, is exposed to hundreds of toxins every day, through food, water, air and household items. Researchers have recently made a concerted effort to identify which toxins are causing developmental defects in children, and their results are troubling. Birth injury lawyers at Pintas & Mullins dive deeper into this research and what can be done to protect future generations.

The two scientists at the forefront of much of this work are Dr. David Bellinger, a neurology at Harvard Medical School, and Philippe Grandjean, a dean for global health at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. First and foremost, if you read nothing beyond this point, it is perhaps most important to note that scientists now recommend pregnant women eat only organic produce. Consuming organic products reduces toxic pesticide exposure by 80 or 90%.

In fact, a study by Emory University found that children who started eating organic food had undetectable levels of pesticides in their bodies after just five days. This is especially important for certain foods, such as spinach, strawberries, grapes, celery, peaches, and apples.

Bellinger and Grandjean, who are profiled in a recent Atlantic feature, have devoted their research to the human brain in its earliest stages - in utero and up to two years old - when it's development is most vulnerable. The brain has 86 billion neurons, the majority of which are formed in the womb during gestation. Some of the dozen or so toxins Bellinger and Grandjean discuss in their work can potentially disrupt neurological development and permanently damage the brain even at low levels of exposure that would not affect an adult.

The dozen chemicals cited by Bellinger and Grandjean are: arsenic, chlorpyrifos, DDT/DDE, ethanol, fluoride, lead, manganese, mercury, polycholorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), tetrachloro-ethylene (PERC), and toluene.

What They Are, and How We are Exposed

Let's take clorpyrifos for example. The chemical was introduced in 1965 and widely used as an insect killer until 1995. In that year, the EPA discovered that the company that made the chemical concealed hundreds of reports of chlorpyrifos poisoning in humans and animals. The chemical was banned from household products in 2000, and is now classified as "highly toxic." It is still, however, widely used on food crops, greenhouses, wood products, and golf courses.

In the 1990s, the National Institutes of Health recognized that young children are significantly more susceptible to chemicals than adults. Coinciding with this, researchers note that rates of diagnosis for autism, ADHD, and other neurological disorders are increasing - now affecting 10 to 15% of births.

There are tens of thousands of chemicals on market, and their oversight is minimal at best. The only law in existence that even feigns to regulate these chemicals is the Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) of 1976.

TSCA only requires testing for a small fraction of chemicals before going onto market, and it has not been at all changed since 1976. It is worth noting that the year it was enacted, more than 62,000 chemicals were already being used in the U.S., all of which were grandfathered in without toxicity testing requirements. They were simply assumed to be safe in humans. Even asbestos, the substance irrefutably proven to cause a severe and fatal form of lung cancer, could not be banned under TSCA, if that tells you anything.

Since 1976, about 20,000 new chemicals have been introduced, mostly untested, and only five have been removed. Researchers are most concerned about PBDEs and PCBs, which are known to cause cancer and other conditions affecting the immune, nervous, and reproductive systems. They are in plastics, rubber and other flame-retardant products.

Even those with ties to the chemical industry are strongly in favor of fixing the TSCA, however, the issue faces massive hurdles that epitomize the problems of our current political playing field. All parties want to fix the TSCA, but only on their own terms and if that cannot happen, TSCA will not be fixed at all.

Continue reading "Birth Injury from Toxic Exposure, A Silent Pandemic" »

Investigations Find Pipeline Explosions Preventable

March 18, 2014,

13105859453_e02846c9b6.jpgIn the wake of a natural gas explosion in New York City that killed seven people and injured dozens of others, federal investigators have determined that far too many fatal fires and explosions like this could have been prevented. Natural gas explosions are often the result of corroded pipelines that have gone uninspected for too long. Accident and injury lawyers at Pintas & Mullins explore federal investigations into two recent fatal explosions.

The tragedy in NYC occurred in the East Harlem neighborhood around 9:30 a.m., causing two five-story buildings to collapse into rubble. The property damage was so massive that investigators were unable to get close enough to the pipeline to inspect it, however, firefighters say the area is now safe. Just 15 minutes before the explosion a resident in the building called Con Edison to complain about a gas odor.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigates cases of natural gas explosions, and an official for the agency told Reuters that the scene was, in a word, devastating. He also stated that it was likely caused by the main, low-pressure gas distribution line that runs along Park Avenue to the Upper East Side.

East Harlem is a predominantly Latino neighborhood, and many residents had to wrap scarves or masks around their faces to avoid inhaling dust and smoke. Over 65 people had to relocate from their homes due to the damage, and have all been placed in shelters. Mayor de Blasio stated that anyone affected by the tragedy - regardless of immigration status - should seek help immediately.

Mayor de Blasio also expressed disappointment that the call to Con Ed was not made sooner, and urged anyone who smells gas to call either 311 or the utility company immediately, to hopefully prevent future devastation.

Con Ed stated that it repaired the pipeline in May 2013, which were re-checked on February 10 and 28 of this year. The NTSB is now trying to determine what exactly went wrong during these repairs and inspections to cause such a massive explosion.

West Virginia Fire Offers Lesson Not Learned

In late 2012, a natural gas pipeline in West Virginia ruptured, causing an explosion and intense fire that destroyed three homes, damaged asphalt roads and melted sidings on several other homes. NTSB investigators determined that it was caused by external pipe corrosion that should have been discovered by pipeline operators.

According to federal reports, the operator received a series of alerts in the minutes leading up to the explosion, indicating that pressure in the pipeline was decaying. Despite these warnings, it took the operator over ten minutes to recognize the rupture - even then, a shutdown was only initiated when a pipeline operator from a different gas company reported a possible rupture.

The negligent operator was employed by Columbia Gas Transmission Corporation. After the rupture was finally reported to its control center, it took over an hour to get field personnel to the site and shut down the gas supply. Over 76 million cubic feet of natural gas was released and burned during that time, which significantly worsened the property and personal damage.

Continue reading "Investigations Find Pipeline Explosions Preventable " »

Transvaginal Mesh Lawsuits Reveal Close Ties Between Doctors and Device Makers

March 17, 2014,

4171223392_76a79a6a36.jpgPlaintiffs involved in the massive litigation against makers of transvaginal mesh products are now looking into the relationship between doctors and manufacturers like Johnson & Johnson. There are tens of thousands of lawsuits pending against Johnson & Johnson over its mesh products, which caused serious, often devastating injuries in women. Our team of transvaginal mesh lawyers takes a closer look into the relationship between Big Pharma and doctors who prescribe their products.

In recent years there has been a large-scale effort to increase transparency in American health care, and detailing the relationship between doctors and medical manufacturers is an extremely important part of this process. Doctors in all specialties are often approached by companies like Pfizer or Johnson & Johnson to tout their products in exchange for handsome financial incentives, wherein doctors either recommend their products to their patients or speak publicly about the products' benefits in conferences or medical meetings.

Transvaginal mesh products were prescribed to women with pelvic organ prolapse and stress urinary incontinence. The product is meant to be permanent to reinforce the weakened vaginal organs, so complete removal is often impossible even in women who suffer severe complications from the products.

And there is a high likelihood that complications will arise, which the FDA has noted. Since it became clear that these products are inherently and excessively dangerous, many have wondered why doctors and surgeons recommended them for so many thousands of women. The answer, it seems, is disheartening, and can be traced back to payments made to doctors by Johnson & Johnson and other mesh product manufacturers.

Through these transvaginal mesh lawsuits, emails and other documents are being revealed in court that link doctors and surgeons to payments. In 2007, for example, one physician was paid by Johnson & Johnson to influence the language written by the medical society about the treatment guidelines for pelvic organ prolapse. Not surprisingly, those guidelines suggested that the condition be treated with transvaginal mesh devices similar to those made by J&J. Another was paid over $800,000 over eight years to influence medical documents in favor of the mesh products.

J&J also attempted to change the language of a research paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) in 2011, so that it would place a more favorable light on mesh products. Courts recently subpoenaed editors of NEJM to have them testify in court. Stories similar to this proliferate.

Financial Relationships in the Medical Community

Though the public is largely blind to it, payments between physicians, medical device manufacturers, Big Pharma, and other similar agencies are legal and extremely common. Those involved in the practice claim it is beneficial to all involved, so doctors can be "well-informed" about new or improved medical products and medications. The problems, however, are self-evident, particularly when companies like J&J create and aggressively promote products that turn out to be extremely harmful.

Top doctors who are willing to commit much of their time to this can earn tens of thousands of dollars or more. In 2010, the federal government passed the Physician Payment Sunshine Act to encourage transparency, so the public can be more aware of the relationship between certain doctors and the medical device and pharmaceutical industry.

Recent, multi-billion dollar settlements between the federal government and Big Pharma illustrate just how harmful this practice can be. GlaxoSmithKline, for example, recently paid about $3 billion to settle allegations over its promotion of its drugs Paxil, Avandia and Wellbutrin, which are also subject to massive injury litigation.

Continue reading "Transvaginal Mesh Lawsuits Reveal Close Ties Between Doctors and Device Makers" »

Uncovering the Truth about Bamboo Bonfire Lung Disease

March 10, 2014,

agelaius-phoeniceus-0123_l.jpegHistoplasmosis is a rare form of lung disease most often diagnosed in workers employed in excavation and building construction - or anyone working out in the natural environment. The lung disease is also known as Bamboo Bonfire, and it is often resistant to antibiotics and accompanied by vague symptoms. Lung cancer lawyers at Pintas & Mullins take a closer look at who could be exposed and how.

The disease is caused by a fungus called Histoplasma capsulatum, which, if able to enter the lung, can cause a serious fungal infection. It often begins to manifest as a dry cough, stomach discomfort, fever and nausea.

In 2011, a brother and sister were hospitalized for these symptoms, given antibiotics and sent home. A week later, the children's health worsened and they were diagnosed with pneumonia and given more antibiotics. When they still failed to improve a few days later, physicians at the Arkansas Children's Hospital started asking questions about what they had done in the weeks prior.

A week before their illnesses began, they cut bamboo, made a fort and burned wood with some other family members who later turned out to be sick as well. Much of the bamboo was inhabited by red-winged blackbirds, which pass Histoplsama capsulatum through their droppings. Once doctors knew this they immediately treated the children with antifungal drugs. They improved within 48 hours, and continued on the medication for three months.

Arkansas and many other parts of the Americas are full of red-winged blackbirds, however almost all types of birds and bats can spread Histoplasma through their droppings. Any disturbance of these droppings, say, through burning or bulldozing, can create dangerous air contamination.

Teams of Workers Exposed

Reports of occupational exposure to Histoplasma go back several decades. In 1977, for example, the American Journal of Epidemiology published a story again out of Arkansas, where a courthouse was being excavated and workers had to clear pigeon droppings from the roof. As a result, dozens of courthouse employees and construction workers developed histoplasmosis, and 100 more developed some type of infection.

A few years later, in 1980, a team of six construction workers in Louisiana contracted histoplasmosis after they bulldozed bamboo trees and burned the debris. The CDC and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health published a free informational booklet, written in both English and Spanish, which you can download here.

Among its contents the booklet includes information on how workers can minimize exposure to dangerous dust and air contaminants. The occupations most at risk of exposure to this fungus include:

• Heating and air conditioning installers or servicers
• Demolition or construction workers
• Farmers
• Pest control workers
• Roofers
• Chimney cleaners
• Microbiology lab workers
• Bridge inspectors or painters
• Anyone involved in the restoration of historic or abandoned buildings

Occupational exposure to dangerous substances is not new, but it is always the employer's responsibility to inform workers when and how such exposure can happen. Employers are also responsible for providing workers with adequate protection equipment, and providing training on how to properly use them.

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Woman Injured by Pepper Spray Files Police Misconduct Lawsuit

March 7, 2014,

A woman in California recently filed a lawsuit against local police who negligently used pepper spray against her, causing traumatic brain injury and significant eye damage. Our team of police misconduct lawyers examines the details of this case and the injury claims this woman is making.
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The incident occurred in Beaumont, California, in February 2012 after officers responded to a 911 domestic disturbance call. One of the responding officers, Enoch Clark, subjected Hernandez to field sobriety tests and a Breathalyzer outside her family home that night. What happened next is hotly contested.

Officer Clark claims Hernandez resisted arrest by kicking, grabbing, and trying to pull away from him, all of which the woman denies. She says she never attempted to flee, and that the officer shoved her against his patrol car unprovoked. She and various witnesses said the tactics used against her were both heavy-handed and unreasonable.

For reasons unclear, Clark ultimately decided to use his JPX pepper spray gun against Hernandez from less than ten inches away. He sprayed her head and eye area with the pepper spray, causing her to cry out in extreme pain. Her family members at the scene tried to come to her aid, however officers kept them away from Hernandez using batons and intimidation.

JPX pepper spray guns shoot out the liquid over 400 miles per hour and cause serious, life-long eye injury if hit from less than five feet away. Police officers who are entrusted with this product know this, and know the implications of its use, including how dangerous it is to fire it off from inches away. Hernandez's complaint states that the officer sprayed her with the JPX without any legitimate justification.

Within a few moments, Hernandez started bleeding from her mouth and nose as her eyes swelled shut. Still in handcuffs and unable to breath properly, the officers did not assist her, instead shoving her into the back of the patrol car. Officers also know how important it is to wash out the eyes after they have been contaminated with pepper spray, however they failed completely to do this for Hernandez.

Rather than assisting her in any way, they left her in the patrol car without any type of medical care for over ten minutes. Hernandez asserts that they were planning out what they would tell their sergeant when he arrived at the scene, to cover up and try to excuse their blatant misconduct. After it became clear Hernandez needed immediate medical attention, the officers themselves had to take her to the emergency room.

Over two years after the incident, Hernandez now requires full-time medical care. The JPX spray caused severe nerve damage in her left eye and all but destroyed her right eye, leaving her blind. Her doctors say she will likely never see again.

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Family Sues Chevron over Benzene Exposure

March 6, 2014,

322748525_1fc6dcf90f.jpgThe surviving children of a man employed by Chevron USA recently filed a lawsuit against the energy company for exposing him to benzene and other cancer-causing chemicals, which ultimately led to his premature death. His family claims Chevron knew of the dangers of chemical exposure but failed to inform workers of the potential health risks. Benzene exposure attorneys at Pintas & Mullins explore the basis and merits of this case and others like it.

Benzene is a chemical compound widely used in the United States, despite it being a known human carcinogen. Numerous long-term studies associate benzene with leukemia, kidney cancer, multiple myeloma, and premature death. The man whose family is now suing on his behalf passed away from leukemia in 2013.

This is far from the first time Chevron has been sued for exposing its employees to carcinogenic chemicals like benzene. Families of deceased loved ones throughout the country, from Ohio to Louisiana, are constantly filing suit against Chevron for its negligent exposure. Almost all of these cases rest on similar claims:

• Chevron knew and in fact has always known that benzene and other chemicals used in its facilities can cause serious, life-threatening health conditions

• Chevron failed to instruct or warn employees of these risks

• Beyond this, Chevron purposefully misrepresented the safety of its products

Chevron Also Facing Mass Environmental Contamination Lawsuits

In 2009, a mass tort lawsuit was filed against the company over negligent benzene exposure. About 200 people took part in the suit, which alleged the company severely contaminated an entire community's air, water and soil.

These claims were based on discoveries that, over a period of about four decades, a Gulf Oil refinery near Hooven, Ohio leaked over eight million gallons of gasoline and other benzene-containing fuel into the area.

Residents in California also recently sued Chevron after thousands of people were hospitalized from a disastrous fire ignited by a refinery. Plaintiffs accused Chevron of willful and conscious disregard for public safety, and sought compensation for emergency response, cleanup costs, medical expenses, and public damage. After the incident, which occurred in 2012 in Richmond, Chevron was fined about $1 million and paid more than $10 million to local hospitals, residents and government agencies who were most affected.

The story grabbing the most headlines, however, is coming out of Ecuador. This case centers on destruction of the Amazon rainforest and its watershed, which is the largest river in the world. For the past several decades, Chevron has been deliberately dumping billions of gallons of waste and oil into the Amazon watershed. As can be expected, the consequences of this have been fast and far-reaching, creating a severe public health crisis in addition to the environmental implications.

Ecuadorians living near the Amazon are now suffering from extraordinarily high rates of cancer, birth defects, poverty, and disease. This first lawsuit was filed about 20 years ago, however due to a series of delays the company was not found guilty until 2011. Chevron was fined $19 billion to pay for environmental cleanup, provide health care and clean water, and restore the ecosystem and wellbeing of Ecuadorians.

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Companies Warn of Deaths from Heart Devices

March 5, 2014,

11310209954_2e50e902a9.jpgTwo heart device manufacturers recently issued safety warnings regarding their devices due to several patient deaths. The first, Carmat, made the announcement after the first patient implanted with their artificial heart device passed away. A few days later, Thoratec Corp. alerted hospitals that at least four patients using a heart pump device have died. Defective medical device lawyers at Pintas & Mullins report on these troubling new findings.

The Carmat patient was 76-years-old, and died 75 days after being fitted with the bioprosthetic heart. He required an artificial heart because he was suffering from terminal heart failure, and he was selected as the first patient to receive the Carmat device. Three more French patients with terminal heart failure are expected to soon receive the device, which is touted to last about five years.

Carmat estimates that over 100,000 patients in the U.S. and Europe could benefit from the artificial heart, believing it will save the lives of those waiting for donors. The company also believes it would reduce the severity of transplant side effects.

Currently, there is only one artificial heart device approved in the United States, made by SynCardia Systems. The longest period of time a patient has survived using that device was four years, at which time the patient received a heart transplant.

New Thoratec HeartMate Causing Trouble

The safety advisory sent to hospitals by Thoratec Corp. detailed deaths in patients implanted with its heart pump device, the HeartMate II. Another five patients either completely lost consciousness or suffered decreased blood flow.

The problem with these pumps is in its switching controllers, which regulate the backup system and monitor the device's performance. Like the Carmat device, the HeartMate II is implanted in patients with advanced heart failure. It is connected to an external battery pack and system controller, which alerts patients if battery life is running low.

All four deaths occurred while patients struggled to switch the HeartMate from its primary system to the backup system. Patients have to disengage the HeartMate to change controllers, and, if disengaged for too long, the device stops helping the heart pump blood.

Eight out of the nine patients that suffered an adverse event had been using the new version of HeartMate, which was introduced in May 2013. Company spokespeople noted that patients who had been using the earlier version may have trouble with switching the controllers, and urged patients and/or their caregivers to be retrained.

Two patient deaths occurred while the person was alone and failed to contact their hospital before switching. According to HeartMate's labels, all patients are required to contact hospitals before they attempt to switch controllers.

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Roos Mexican Cheese Recalled Over Deadly Listeria

March 4, 2014,

12835571415_5f6dbc7d2f.jpgRoos Food recently announced that it was recalling several types of its chesses due to probably Listeria contamination. The recall was expanded on March 1, 2014, and now includes all lots and all products sizes of the following Roos brands: Amigo, Anita, Mexicana, and Santa Rose de Lima. Our team of Listeria food poisoning lawyers details the causes and complications of this recall.

These cheeses are wrapped in clear plastic inside Styrofoam trays and clear rigid plastic containers. Many Roos sour creams and butter are also included in the recall, including the brands: Santa Rosa de Lima, Amigo, Crema Pura Mexicana, and La Chapina Crema. A full list of the affected products can be found here, on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. The sour creams were packaged in white plastic tubes, and clear plastic bags, pouches, and jars.

Roos is based in Delaware, and ships products primarily to retailers in that state along with Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Virginia, and Washington D.C. It is yet unclear what exactly caused the Listeria contamination. So far, there have been at least eight Listeria infections reported to the CDC, seven in Maryland and one in California.

Listeria monocytogenes is an organism that can cause severe infection in vulnerable patients, such as expectant mothers, the elderly, young children, and those with chronic health conditions. Among the eight patients currently recorded as victims of this outbreak, seven had to be hospitalized, and five were related to pregnant women (two mother-newborn pairs, and one newborn). One patient, in California, has died. These illnesses occurred between August 1, 2013 and November 27, 2013.

Anyone who has purchased a Roose cheese, sour cream, or butter product is urged not to consume any and discard of it immediately. Listeria is a serious health problem in the United States, with several outbreaks per year almost always related to food (typically cheese or fruit). The infection sickens at least 1,600 every year and kills about 260.

How to Protect against Deadly Listeria Poisoning

An estimated one in seven cases of Listeria poisoning occur in pregnant women, which can cause miscarriages, stillbirths, early labor, and illness or death of a newborn. The CDC asserts that pregnant women are ten times more likely to get Listeria infections than those in the general population, and for reasons beyond the scope of this article, Hispanic women are 24 times more likely to get Listeria.

The majority of Listeria infections, however, occur in older adults (65 and older). It is important to know and be able to recognize the signs of Listeria poisoning, so you if you or someone you love becomes infected you can seek immediate medical help.

Symptoms of Listeria poisoning often include fever, muscle aches, diarrhea and other gastrointestinal symptoms. For pregnant women, the infection typically manifests mostly through fever and fatigue. In others, signs can include headache, stiff neck, loss of balance, confusion and convulsions. In older adults, the infection often causes meningitis or septicemia.

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