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.

Continue reading "Unnecessary C-Sections Plague American Women" »

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.

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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.

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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" »

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.

Continue reading "Postal Worker Attacked by Loose Dog" »

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.

Continue reading "Best App for Athlete Concussion Help" »

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.

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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.

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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" »