The Dangers of Hoverboards

Everyone's talking about the exciting new toy that has had even the Vatican horrified. Whether Santa dropped a hoverboard in your Christmas stocking, or you couldn't resist the urge to buy one for yourself, there’s a lot to know about these very intriging, but dangerous toys.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), hoverboards have been involved in a number of fire-related hazards. The CPSC is actively investigating reported fires and will continue to do so as new reports are made.   

The agency is also testing these damaged and burned hoverboards for answers to several questions:

Do hoverboards pose a safety problem for American consumers?

Is there an inherent design flaw in these hoverboards that poses a threat of a fire hazard, or is it just a few models of hoverboards that have these issues?

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IKEA Warns of Wall Chest Tip-over Injuries after Two Toddler Fatalities

Safety experts and Atlanta personal injury lawyers have been warning of the risk of child fatalities in furniture tip over accidents for many years. Last year, two toddlers were killed in furniture tip over accidents involving an IKEA dresser unit model. Now, IKEA North America is telling millions of owners of these dressers that these chests must be firmly anchored to the walls in order to prevent accidents of the type that killed the two toddlers.

IKEA has confirmed at least 14 tip over incidents that resulted in four injuries. The company says that the chest must be firmly anchored to the walls, in order to prevent injuries like these.

According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, one fatality involved a two-year-old boy in Pennsylvania who died in February last year, when a MALM chest of drawers fell on him. The boy was pinned to a bed, and died from his injuries. The second fatality involved a two-year-old child from Washington, who was killed in June of last year when a similar chest fell on him. According to IKEA North America, it has three other reports of child fatalities since 1989 involving tip overs of other models of chests. The company is offering free wall-mounting repair kits for 27 million dressers. 

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Defective Takata Airbags Now Linked to 105 Injuries, Six Deaths

A committee that is currently investigating car recalls linked to defective Takata airbags says that the Japanese auto parts supplier recently decided to update recall information. The updated toll from the airbags defect is now 105 injuries and 6 fatalities.

The earlier toll was 64 injuries and five fatalities linked to the malfunctioning airbag. However, since then, Takata has apparently identified at least 40 more incidents of malfunctioning airbags resulting in serious injuries, including one that resulted in at least one death.

The defect causes the airbags to shoot off potentially dangerous fragments that can seriously injure occupants in the vehicle. Occupants are at risk of serious injuries, including eye injuries, facial injuries and other injuries as a result of being hit in the face by these pieces of shrapnel.

Overall, more than 20 million vehicles have been recalled because of the malfunctioning airbags. Meanwhile, Takata is also struggling with a scarcity of replacement inflators for the recalled vehicles. The company has admitted that more replacement inflators are required to replace the defective inflator that caused the problem. Takata is also under fire for its slow-moving recalls. US regulators are currently considering extra measures to ensure that owners of these vehicles are safe. The Japanese company was hit with a $14,000 per day fine for its lack of cooperation with federal regulators, and since then, has begun to cooperate more enthusiastically with the feds.

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Air Bag Recalls Continue to Expand

As we mentioned in a post back in September, 2014 has been a record year for auto recalls. And the year isn’t over yet. Approximately 14.3 million automobiles from ten different manufacturers have now been recalled for faulty air bags manufactured by Takata.

The air bags, which were installed in vehicles from 2000-2011, may explode when they inflate. The force of the explosion may shatter the air bag container, sending metal and plastic shrapnel into the driver and passenger. The problem has been linked to propellant chemicals in the air bag, and may be aggravated in high-humidity climates. As a result, there have been more widespread recalls in high-humidity areas, including Georgia. So far there have been five fatalities and over 100 injures attributed to the defective air bags. The most recent death, which sparked a new wave of recalls, was of a pregnant woman in Malaysia.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is urging owners of the affected vehicles, which include cars by Honda, Toyota, Mazda, BMW, Nissan, Mitsubishi, Subaru, Chrysler, Ford and General Motors, to act on the recalls. Car owners that have been contacted by their cars’ manufacturers should make repair arrangements with local dealerships. Consumers who have not been contacted and are concerned that their vehicles may be affected can check by their vehicle identification number (VIN) here.


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Ignition Switch Failure Becoming Large Issue for Automaker

General Motor’s faulty ignition switches have been a hot topic in the news since the beginning of 2014. In February, GM recalled 800,000 vehicles due to defective ignition switches, and since then, the number has grown to 29 million vehicles recalled in North America. Vehicles affected by the defective ignition switch include the Chevy Cobalt, Chevy HHR, Pontiac Solstice, Pontiac G5, Saturn Ion, and Saturn Sky

According to GM, a heavy key ring or a “jarring event,” such as hitting a bump in the road, could cause the defective ignition switch to slip out of position, shutting off power steering and brakes, and causing the air bags to fail in a crash.

Deaths & Injuries Linked to the Faulty Switch

GM has linked 13 deaths and 54 crashes to the defective switch; however, a recent review of federal crash data commissioned by the Center for Auto Safety identified over 300 deaths in GM cars with undeployed airbags. The drastic difference in numbers it attributable to the criteria GM is using to tally deaths. The automaker is only counting failures that resulted in front-impact collisions in which airbags did not deploy. For these victims and their families, GM has set up a compensation program.

According to GM’s criteria, if a vehicle’s airbag deployed or if the resulting accident wasn’t a head-on crash, the victims don’t qualify for the compensation program—even if ignition switch failure caused or contributed to their injuries. That means hundreds of accident victims are potentially ineligible for compensation. For example, an injured passenger who was riding in the backseat, or who was involved in a rear-end collision, would not qualify for compensation.



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What to Do If Your Car Is Recalled

2014 is turning out to be a record year for recalls. Millions of cars already have been recalled this year, most of them from the General Motors. Fresh data released by Carfax confirms that as many as 36% of all recalled cars on American roads are not repaired.

In fact, last year, the auto industry recalled more cars than it sold. In 2013, recalls were up by approximately 25%, which is the highest increase on record since 2004. One of General Motors largest recalls this year, involving more than 2.6 million vehicles, was for a defective ignition switch that has already been linked to 13 fatalities. Clearly, car recalls are not always linked to defects that are inconveniences to customers, but possibly serious defects that could actually cause car accidents involving injuries and death.

Who is to blame for this poor response to recalls? According to Carfax, there are currently at least 36 million recalled cars being operated by motorists in the United States. In many cases, people are completely unaware of the recalls, while in the remaining cases, the people have been informed of the recall, but chose not to respond anyway.

One major reason for such a poor response rate is the fact that people are understandably fatigued by all the recall alerts that are being posted in the media. Many Atlanta residents actually discard recall notices that they get sent in the mail. In other cases, an owner may not really believe that his vehicle will give him any trouble, since he's never had trouble with it before. Therefore, he may not take the car to the dealer to get the problem fixed.

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Tips for Safe Holiday Gift Shopping for Children

Most retailers across the country are reporting early holiday shopping this year as consumers start buying for family, co-workers, and friends. Many of those gifts will include children's accessories, toys, and other products. This is the right time of the year to remind parents that the toys and products that they choose for their children must be safe from the risk of injuries.

Most injuries related to children's products involve the face and head, including a large number to the eyes and forehead area.  Unfortunately, there are far too many children's toys that come with removable parts and sharp parts that pose a serious eye injury hazard. When you buy toys as gifts this holiday season, avoid toys that come with protruding parts, spikes, or sharp or pointed edges.

Avoid buying guns and shooting toys, or toys that come with parts that fly off. These can actually turn into dangerous projectiles, and can cause injuries not just to the child who is using the toy, but also other children and adults in the environment.

Before you buy the toy, decide whether the toy is appropriate for the child's age. In fact, if you are buying toys with sharp edges, or projectile components, it is best to also consider whether the child has younger siblings. Very often, toys that are safer for an older child find their way into the hands of younger siblings in the house, and cause injuries.

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Safer Headlight Technology Being Developed to Prevent Accidents

Every year, there are variations in the number of car accident fatalities, but one fact remains the same -- more fatal car accidents occur at night than in the daytime hours. Nighttime driving comes with its own set of challenges, and one of those is the lack of adequate roadway lighting. A new study focuses on the potential for improving nighttime driving through more advanced automobile headlight systems.

The research was recently presented at the International Symposium on Automotive Lighting in Germany. One scientist involved in the study presented a paper outlining the different types of lighting technologies that can help make nighttime driving both safer and easier. Specifically, these technologies involve headlights that can focus light onto particularly tricky and dangerous roadways. This would be done by using headlights that swivel or bend to put more light onto the turn of the road.

According to the report that was presented at the conference, earlier studies that compared cars equipped with these headlight systems and vehicles with conventional low beam headlights, found that the number of accidents occurring at night actually dropped.  For instance, there was a drop of approximately 4% in nighttime accident frequency along low-speed roads.  On high-speed roads with shallower curves, the drop was between 1% and 2%.

An earlier study into high beam anti-glare headlights was presented at The Eye, The Brain and The Auto research Congress in Michigan in September.  At that conference, researchers presented a paper in which they analyzed the performance and safety of high-beam headlights that come with selective dimming powers, a feature that puts high-beams on certain sections of the road.   These headlights are already beginning to appear in certain vehicle models, and do a much better job of illuminating roadways (especially curves) due to the lack of glare. 

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FDA's Poor Oversight of Disposable Wipes Makers Poses Safety Risk to Consumers - Product Liability Claims Likely

The Food and Drug Administration has failed in its responsibility to maintain oversight over companies that manufacture disposable wipes. As a result, sanitation and hygiene standards at these facilities have dropped, and the result has been several fatalities and infections across the country caused by contaminated wipes. An investigation by the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel found poor hygiene standards at a facility operated by yet another Wisconsin-based company that manufactures wipes.

Product liability claims are likely from any serious infection or wrongful death which arises due these wipes. A personal injury arising out of a serious infection often results in long-term hospitalization and continuing issues for the individual. Product liability claims which arise out of the improper manufacturing of a product can be very difficult to prove. However, personal injury lawyers have developed a variety of techniques of attacking these types of cases. The work of government agencies is often an important component in establishing civil liability in these matters.

That company, Rockline Industries manufactures baby wipes and other wipes that are used in hospitals and homes. According to the investigation, at least 5 years ago, employees of the company acting as whistleblowers wrote a letter to the Food and Drug Administration warning that thousands of contaminated wipes were being manufactured at the company's Arkansas facility. The whistleblowers alleged that the company was aware of the contamination of these wipes, but failed to take action, and continued to ship these wipes across the country. 

In 2006, an investigator from the Food and Drug Administration arrived at the facility, and found shockingly unsanitary conditions. These conditions included poor sanitation standards and shoddy product testing. The inspection was triggered after consumers began complaining about the moldy odors on some of the wipes, as well as the presence of foreign objects, including blades and even a dead cockroach.

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Company Recalls Dining Tables Due to Personal Injury Risks

A California-based company and the Consumer Product Safety Commission are announcing a recall of dining tables, because of the risk that the tables could collapse, injuring consumers. As any personal injury attorney who has handled a collapsing table or chair case can attest, the injuries from this type of incident are more significant than they may first appear. For instance, consider the possibility of a small child sitting at a table that collapses. The weight of the table could easily seriously injure or kill the child.

For adults, the risk of a collapsing table relates more to a leg or knee injury. If the heavy wooden table were to collapse on an individual’s knee, then there is a significant potential for a knee replacement surgery. It is good that the company has taken the issue seriously and is recalling the tables. They will very likely avoid a number of product liability claims.

The table, the Dover Dining Table is manufactured in China and imported by West Elm, a division of Williams-Sonoma of San Francisco, California. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, West Elm is recalling approximately 830 dining tables in the United States. In Canada, 10 tables are being recalled. The recall is linked to a potential defect that could cause the wooden base of the table to collapse. This can cause the glass top to fall, posing serious injury hazards to consumers seated at the table.

The company is aware of at least 14 reports in which the tables collapsed or broke, and in at least one incident, a consumer suffered leg injuries. The dining table consists of a tempered glass top and a brown wooden base. The tables have the words West Elm and SKU: 2188233 printed on the underside of the center beam. The tables were sold at West Elm stores, as well as online stores between July 2011 and October 2011 for about $500.

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Georgia Appeals Court Overturns Yamaha Rhino Injury Verdict

The Georgia Court Of Appeals has reversed a jury verdict in favor of a Yamaha Rhino rider, who suffered a serious personal injury during an off-road vehicle accident. The victim, a gravedigger from Georgia had been riding his Yamaha Rhino off-highway vehicle when the vehicle flipped over. He suffered serious leg injuries.

A court had ordered Yamaha to pay damages of $317,000. However, the Georgia Court of Appeals has now reversed the verdict. According to the appeals court's decision, unlike a car accident, the victim had assumed the risk of injuries when he purchased the off-road vehicle in 2006. With this and to the dismay of many personal injury lawyers, Yamaha's unblemished Rhino injury lawsuit record continues. The company has continually won lawsuits arising out injuries and fatalities resulting from accidents involving its off-road vehicle. However, the company has also entered into undisclosed settlements with several injured people, so the unblemished track record isn’t that clean. Those settlements are confidential, however.

The Yamaha Rhino was introduced in 2003, and quickly became popular among a growing generation of off-road vehicle fans. These off-road vehicles are different from all-terrain vehicles, in that they do include some additional safety features like safety belts. However, consumer safety groups soon found that the Yamaha Rhino was linked to a number of accidents ending in injuries. Some of the injuries that have resulted from these off-road vehicle accidents have been severe. Yamaha Rhino riders, who were caught or trapped when the off-road vehicle flipped over, have suffered from severe crushing injuries, and arm and leg injuries. There have also been amputations and severe limbs. The Rhino weighs about 1,100 pounds, and any accident that results in the vehicle flipping over and landing on a person, can cause serious injuries.

The number of persons filing lawsuits against Yamaha over the Rhino off-road vehicle has increased. The lawsuits claimed that the Rhino is inherently defective. The off-road vehicle is susceptible to rollovers even when it was traveling at low speeds. Even Yamaha Rhino riders who were riding their off-road vehicle on relatively flat roads were injured in accidents. Additionally, the vehicle offered no protection against crushing injuries or amputations when limbs were trapped underneath the vehicle. Yamaha responded to criticism by saying that its vehicles were safely designed, and that these accidents and injuries were the result of riders’ failure to follow all safety instructions and use the vehicle according to manufacturer specifications.

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Honda Recalls Motorcycles Due to Braking Problem - High risk of Motorcycle Accident

Honda has announced a recall of more than 100,000 motorcycles because of a potential braking problem. As personal injury lawyers know well, braking problems with motorcycles significantly increases the risk of a motorcycle accident and serious personal injury. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration which announced the recall, says that the recall covers the 2001-10 and 2012 GL1800 models of touring motorcycles marketed as GoldWings.

According to Honda, the problem lies with a potential rear brake issue - the rear brake may be at least partially applied even after it has been released. If the motorcyclist continues riding with a partially engaged brake, it may generate enough heat to cause a fire in the rear brakes. Also, when a motorcyclist rides with an engaged brake, it could increase the risks of an accident. 

Honda informed the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that it learned about the potential problem in July 2010. A Honda motorcycle user had just finished riding his motorcycle, when there was a small explosion a few minutes after he finished riding. He saw flames emerging from the rear brake area. There were no injuries in that incident, and the motorcyclist was able to use an extinguisher to put out the flames. 

However, Honda took about 16 months to verify the existence of the problem, and to determine the appropriate course of action. In the United States alone, the company was aware of at least 26 similar complaints of rear brake problems, including dragging, and at least 2 fires. The recall is expected to commence in January. If you own a Honda motorcycle that has been included in the recall, you are advised to contact your dealer for details about repairs.

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Indiana Offers $300,000 Wrongful Death Settlement to Families of Victims of Stage Collapse

The state of Indiana has offered a settlement of $300,000 to families of each of the 7 people who were killed during a stage collapse at the Indiana State Fair in August. This amount is substantially below the settlement value of these types of wrongful death claims.  The rest of the $5 million compensation fund will be paid out to people who suffered a personal injury during the stage collapse. As personal injury attorneys are well aware, when a government entity is involved, victims are seldom fully compensated for their injuries or the death of their loved ones.

The stage collapse accident occurred at the Indiana State Fair in Indianapolis on August 13. Rigging on the stage collapsed in the late hours of the evening, killing 4 people immediately. One other person died the morning after the accident, and 2 other persons died in the days after the collapse. More than 40 persons were injured in the collapse. Just before the collapse, fair organizers and security officials had noticed strong winds measuring 77 mph, and had even been considering postponing the concert by Sugar Land that was due to take place. However, those plans to postpone the concert never materialized.

Under Indiana's liability laws, the state’s liability in an accident like this is restricted to $5 million. Now, the state has proposed its plans to divide the $5 million. The state is offering a settlement of $300,000 to the families of each person killed in the collapse. Families of victims, who had been hospitalized before their deaths, are likely to receive additional compensation. More than 60 other persons were injured in the collapse, and they will be compensated from the remainder of the $5 million fund. The compensation for those were injured in the accident, is likely to depend on the severity of the injuries. Some of the injured are being offered settlements that amount to just about 60% of their total documented medical expenses. One of the injured, who was left paralyzed, has been offered compensation of $500,000.

According to the Indiana Atty. Gen., its office found it a challenge to decide on the amount of compensation to each of the victims. The Atty. Gen.'s Office has had some assistance in designing the compensation plan from Kenneth Feinberg, who helped design the compensation plans after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the Virginia Tech Shootings. 

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More Than 300,000 Harley Motorcycles Recalled Due to Brake Light Failure - Product Liability Claims likely

Harley-Davidson Inc. is announcing a recall of more than 308,000 motorcycles. The recall is being blamed on a potential brake light failure problem. These types of product defects can pose a significant risk to riders, greatly increasing the likelihood of motorcycle accident. Drivers often have trouble seeing motorcycles and, therefore, an inoperative brake light will make it even more difficult for them to observe a motorcycle stopping. Unfortunately, motorcycle accidents often result in severe personal injury and wrongful death.

According to the company, the brake light switches on its motorcycles can be exposed to excessive heat from the exhaust system, causing the brake lights to fail. This failure can cause a fluid leak, as well as the loss of the rear braking system. The loss of the rear braking system is likely to result in product liability claims since they are highly likely to cause a serious injury or death. Atlanta motorcycle accident lawyers have regularly encouraged riders to get their bikes regularly checked, but this is the type of issue that could not have been identified through regular maintenance absence a warning from the manufacturer.

According to the company, the Touring, CEO and Trike motorcycles are included in the recall. These motorcycles are from the 2009 to 2012 model years. The motorcycles were manufactured between June 2008 and September 2011. The company has already begun the process of notifying all Harley motorcycle owners about the recall. Owners of Harley motorcycles that are included in this recall are advised to visit their dealers for installation of a new rear brake light switch kit. The recall involves approximately 241,000 motorcycles in the United States, with the remainder in other countries. 

According to Harley-Davidson Inc., the problem came to light in June 2010, when it received a report of a Trike motorcycle losing its rear brake light. While the company was investigating this accident, it received a report of a similar incident in Louisiana. The Louisiana accident resulted in injuries to one person. The company began an investigation into the Louisiana accident, but has not yet been able to determine whether the rear brake light problem caused that accident. According to the company, it is not aware of any other accidents or injuries associated with the problem.

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CPSC Product Safety Database Hit with First Lawsuit - Effort to limit likelihood of Product Liability Claims

This was something that Atlanta personal injury lawyers had been expecting. Ever since the Consumer Product Safety Commission database that allows consumers to upload complaints about products went online, the attorneys at our law firm have been expecting manufacturers to challenge the manner in which the database allows consumers to publicly post complaints about products. That is exactly what has now happened. An unidentified company has filed a lawsuit to block the Consumer Product Safety Commission from posting what it describes as “baseless allegations” about one of its products.

The database in question here is located on the website The website is operated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and the establishment of the website was one of the provisions of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008. That law had been passed after a tumultuous couple of years for product safety in the country. Millions of children's products and toys had been recalled for high lead content levels, and a number of other deficiencies. The database serves as an early identifier of products which contain defects which may result in severe personal injury or wrongful death.

The database which was launched in March this year, allows consumers to upload complaints about products. These complaints are posted online, and are publicly accessible. Other consumers can view these complaints, and make informed decisions about the products they want to buy. Consumers can post complaints about thousands of products. Manufacturers are given the opportunity to review these complaints, and post their responses.

Manufacturers have been against the establishment of the database from the word “Go.” According to them, the database does not give them enough time to respond to a complaint.   Manufacturer fears that these complaints will be used by personal injury attorneys during a product liability lawsuit, have been paramount.

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Man Receives $48 million Award for Motrin Related Injury Lawsuit

A man, who suffered severe skin rashes and blood blisters from the use of the painkiller Motrin, has been awarded $48 million for his injuries. The verdict came in California in a product liability lawsuit that has been closely watched by Atlanta personal injury lawyers. There are significant number of product liability claims arising out of ibuprofen pending in the United States. These cases include both serious personal injuries and wrongful death claims.

The plaintiff, a 22-year-old Southern California man says that he was 16 years old when he took Motrin for the treatment of aches and fever. That was in October 2005. What happened next was something he did not expect in his wildest dreams. His skin quickly erupted into lesions, and his mouth started filling up with blood blisters. 

The man filed a lawsuit against McNeil Consumer Healthcare, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson and the manufacturer of Motrin. According to the lawsuit, the drug, which is easily available over the counter, did not come with enough warning about side effects.

The active ingredient in Motrin is ibuprofen, which is used for the management of mild pain and fever. Motrin belongs to a class of drugs called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, which includes a number of other painkillers, including diclefenac. The health hazards associated with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs use have recently become clear.

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FDA Likely to Declare Surgical Mesh Devices as High-Risk Because of Injury Hazards - Product Liability Claims Likely

Under pressure from consumer safety advocates and product liability attorneys, the Food and Drug Administration is likely to soon limit access to surgical mesh devices because of the high risk of personal injury and complications resulting from the use of these. The Food and Drug Administration has confirmed that it will soon review the safety of the devices, which are used to treat pelvic organ prolapse in women. In this condition, the uterus and other organs shift from their position, and protrude through the body. The condition is frequently seen in women after childbirth. A surgical mesh device is used to keep the protruding organs in place. These devices are implanted transvaginally.

However, the Food and Drug Administration has been aware of complaints involving complications in women who had been implanted with surgical mesh products, for a while now. According to the Food and Drug Administration, between January 2008 and December 2010, it received more than 1,500 complaints of complications associated with the use of surgical mesh products. In July, the agency issued a safety warning about the products. Most of the complaints alleged chronic pain after the insertion of the surgical mesh. Women have also reported complaints about painful sexual intercourse.

What has seemed really outrageous to Atlanta product liability attorneys is that many women, who have had these surgical mesh products implanted and now face chronic and consistent pain, could have been treated even without the use of these devices. Doctors now believe that an unknown number of women may have had surgical mesh produces implanted to treat pelvic organ prolapse, when there are noninvasive techniques that can help treat the condition.  In fact, the Food and Drug Administration believes that the use of surgical mesh product exposes patients to more severe injury risks, compared to traditional non-mesh repairs. The increased risk from the use of the surgical mesh does not translate into higher benefits for these patients. The Food and Drug Administration says that it has not seen any evidence to indicate that the use of the surgical mesh treats the condition any better than non-mesh procedures.

Consumer safety groups have been vocal about appealing to the Food And Drug Administration to recall these products from the market. These devices are currently classified as moderate risk, but consumer groups want the products to be banned from the market altogether. These products were approved through the Food and Drug Administration’s fast track 510 (k) approval process that is often used to approve medical devices that are similar to those already in the market. This controversial approval process has been used to approve hundreds of devices over the years, and is widely favored by medical device makers, because it allows them to get their devices approved without going through the usual procedures under traditional approval methods.

The Atlanta product liability lawyers at the Katz Law Firm represent victims who have been injured through the use of defective products across Georgia.

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Table Saw Injuries in Atlanta are Preventable making Product Liability Claims more likely

Thousands of persons are injured every year in table saw accidents, many of them occurring in Georgia. These horrific injuries include amputations and involve not just woodworkers and other workers, but also DIY fans. Personal injury attorneys and Workers’ Compensation lawyers have been regularly pointing out that the technology to prevent these accidents not only exists, but has also been widely proven to prevent amputations and other injuries from table saw accidents. However, the technology has been widely resisted by the manufacturer lobby. That might soon change.

Last week, the National Consumers League accompanied by injured workers traveled to Washington to meet with representatives of the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Also attending were manufacturers of table saws who took the opportunity to demonstrate the latest guarding technology that they have developed to prevent table saw-related injuries. Unfortunately, the guarding technology that these manufacturers have developed is cumbersome to use and not very popular.

The technology that can actually prevent these injuries however has been developed by an inventor called Steven Gass. The technology, SawStop works by using electrical sensors to detect a human finger. When a finger is detected, the blade comes to a stop within a few one thousandths of a second. The technology promises to virtually eliminate fingertip amputations from table saw-accidents, but the manufacturer lobby believes that mandating SawStop on all tools, would give its maker a monopoly.

SawStop is now in use in table saws that are manufactured by Gass’ own company. He has offered to license the technology out to other manufacturers, so they can use it in their table saws, but says he has been rejected every time. Manufacturers are simply not interested in investing more dollars in a feature that they don't believe can boost sales.

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Used Car Buyers in Atlanta Face Auto Accident Risks

People who buy used cars in Atlanta may be at risk of a car accident when they purchase recalled cars, but have not been informed of the recall. Loopholes in federal policies allow used-car dealers to sell recalled cars without making buyers aware of this information. In fact, federal policies are so lax that they don't even require automobile manufacturers to inform used-car dealers about a recall. Manufacturers are only required to inform their franchise dealers about recalled vehicles.

Besides, even if used-car dealers and franchise dealers are made aware of any recall information, they are not required to fix these cars before they're sold. As a car accident lawyer, the Government Accountability Office report which indicates the serious dangers facing people who unknowingly buy defective used cars is a call to action.

What should be even more shocking to Atlanta buyers is that these car dealers are not even required to inform consumers about the recall before these cars are sold. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration does not even have the authority to order dealers to make repairs to the recalled cars, or inform consumers about the recalls before they sell the cars.

In this entire mess, it is buyers of used cars who suffer. With the number of auto recalls that are announced in the United States every year, it's not possible for a buyer to be aware of each and every recall bulletin. Such people may go ahead and buy a used car unaware that it has been included in a recall list for a potentially serious safety issue. These people may go ahead and buy the car, without getting it fixed, and without any idea of the safety hazards they face.

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Product Liability actions likely after Popular Diabetes Drug Avandia pulled from Shelves

Soon the popular diabetes medication Avandia will no longer be available on the shelves of drugstores, says the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. As an Atlanta injury lawyer, I am glad to see the drug off the shelves. In my opinion, the risk of serious injury appears too great. Formerly known asRosiglitazone, GlaxoSmithKline began marketing the product under the trade name Avandia in 1999, following initial approval by the FDA. Annual sales reached a high of $3.2 billion in 2006, but declined after reports of adverse effects. In fact, the drug has been plagued with liability issues ever since 2007 when a study was released by Dr. Steven Nissen, chief of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic. The study showed the drug increased risk of heart attack by 40 percent in people who had Type II Diabetes, prompting the FDA to require that it be packaged with a Black Box Warning.

Between 60,000 to 200,000 people suffered heart attacks and/or death, during the 11 year span that Avandia monopolized the market, and millions were prescribed the drug.

Beginning November 18, 2011, the drug will only be available through doctors who have fully disclosed the risks to their patients and are certified to prescribe it.Under the new Avandia-Rosiglitazone Medicines Access Program, the FDA will limit the drug's use to patients who have already been safely treated with it, those whose blood sugar can't be controlled with other medications and those who, when informed of the risk, still prefer Avandia to other drugs. Rosiglitazone will only be available to enrolled patients by mail order from certified pharmacies participating in the programand Avandia and Actos, which was approved in 1999, will be offered as its alternative.

Glaxo will start telling pharmacists and physicians about the new program within the 60 day window allowed by the FDA, and implement the changes at or before that time, said Mary Anne Rhyne, a company spokeswoman, in an e-mailed statement to Bloomberg News. Patients shouldn’t abruptly stop taking their diabetes medicines without first discussing it with their doctors, she said.

More than 23 million Americans are thought to suffer from Type II Diabetes.




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Nursing Home Residents At Risk from Overmedication

A report by the Department of Health and Human Services finds that a shocking 80% of elderly nursing home residents in the country have been administered antipsychotic medications, for off-label purposes. Because these medications have a high risk of deaths, it is statistically likely that some of the patients died as a result of the use of these medications. The off-label use of these medications raises the likelihood of claims for nursing home abuse, medical malpractice and product liability. Atlanta injury attorneys will need to closely monitor the developments in this area and will likely get calls from families of patients who were treated with these medications.

According to the report, out of 300,000 nursing home residents studied in 2007, approximately 90% received powerful anti-psychotic medications that are typically used for the treatment of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. There are studies to prove that elderly persons who receive antipsychotic medications can be at a high risk of death. In spite of this, these vulnerable persons were overmedicated, and there is no reason to believe that things have changed dramatically between 2007 and now. 

Moreover, it seems highly likely that the pharmaceutical industry has been behind this overmedication of nursing home residents. One of the ways in which pharmaceutical companies increase their profits is by promoting off-label uses of their drugs. An off-label use of a drug is one which has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Doctors can prescribe a drug for off-label uses, but a company is not allowed to market the drug for these purposes.

However, as Atlanta nursing home abuse attorneys have noted in the past, that hasn't really stopped pharmaceutical companies from aggressively promoting off-label uses of their drugs, especially among elders. The more numbers of uses these drugs are prescribed for, the higher the profits for the company. 

In addition, the report also found that one in five residents in nursing homes have been administered these drugs in a manner that violates federal standards for their use. These patients were either given dosages that were too high or were on the medication for too long a period of time.

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Spotlight on Burn Injury Risks from Defective Car Seat Heaters

During some of the freezing winter days that Atlanta personal injury lawyers and residents suffered over the past few months, cars with seat heaters seemed akin to a blessing from above. However, there are serious burn injury risks linked to the car seat heaters found in many popular auto models. The burn injury risk is especially significant for the disabled and physically challenged persons. Car accidents may happen, but this is a preventable injury.

In fact, just about every other auto manufacturer has, at some point, recalled car seat heaters for malfunctioning. However, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has never found the need to act on incidents where the car seat heaters have heated to levels beyond human tolerance. Now, a group of safety advocates has asked the federal administration to look closer at defective and malfunctioning car seat heaters that have caused serious burn injuries.

The risk of burn injuries from defective car seat heaters is the highest among the disabled and physically challenged. These people may have limited or no sensation in their lower limbs, which means that when a car seat heater heats up to dangerously high levels, the person only finds out that he's being burnt when it is too late. Some of these people have ended up with third-degree burns.  Currently, there are no federal standards in place for car seat heaters, and that has meant consumers are using seat heaters that are not required to meet any safety standards.  Very often, car seat heaters do not come with a switch on/off mechanism that allows a person to switch off the heater when it is warming up to intolerable levels. 

Now, safety advocates have sent a letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, calling on them to treat this issue with the seriousness it deserves. They are specifically calling on the AAM to establish a maximum temperature for car seat heaters, and install automatic timers that switch off the heater when it becomes too hot. 

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Study Underscores Need for Side Impact Protection During Atlanta Accidents

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has been issuing its much anticipated ratings for auto accident and injury protection for years now. A new analysis by the Insurance Institute shows that drivers of vehicles driving a car with a high rating by the Institute had an enhanced chance of surviving a side impact auto accident, compared to drivers of vehicles that did not have a good rating.

The researchers in the analysis tested cars that had side airbags. The tests were conducted at 31 mph. The researchers found that a person's chances of dying in a side impact accident decreased by approximately 70% when his car was rated Good, compared to a car which was rated Poor. A person driving a car that was rated Acceptable was 64% less likely to die in a side impact crash, and a person driving a vehicle rated Marginal was 49% less likely to die in a side impact accident.

Side impact accidents are typically high-injury accidents, because there's little space between the occupant and the other car to cushion the impact. Approximately 23 percent of all auto accident deaths in the US every year are caused in side impact accidents. The serious injuries that Atlanta car accident lawyers see in accidents like this are neck injuries, fractures, chest injuries, abdominal injuries, internal injuries and pelvic injuries.

According to the Insurance Institute, the analysis shows that while side airbags do have their role to play in preventing serious injuries or fatalities in side-impact accidents, the structural integrity of a vehicle also matters greatly in preventing these injuries.

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Did Toyota Try to Mislead Public with WSJ Story

Did Toyota Try to Mislead Public with WSJ Story?

The Wall Street Journal ran a story last week, citing sources “familiar with the findings” that indicated that NHTSA investigations into Toyota’s acceleration problems had found driver error had been to blame for most of the cases. According to the Wall Street Journal piece, federal data suggests that many drivers, who blamed defects in their Toyota for these accidents, possibly jammed the accelerator instead of slamming the brakes.

As expected, the Wall Street Journal article created a furor. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has been quick to distance itself from the article. An agency representative said that the information used by the WSJ came from Toyota itself, and not from the agency. In other words, the company had planted the story in order to develop a strong case for itself against the hundreds of acceleration-related personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits it's up against.

This week, Toyota retaliated by stressing that it had nothing to do with planting any story in the Wall Street Journal or any other media publication. According to Toyota, it's independent investigations have revealed that so-called ”pedal misapplication” is one of the factors involved in the accident. “Pedal misapplication” is Toyota's way of saying driver error was to blame for the accident. The company seems to be trying to build a case to blame motorists for all these accidents, and not any defects in the floor mats, accelerator or the electronic throttle control systems.

It has not been a great week for Toyota. On Tuesday, a federal grand jury subpoenaed Toyota, and ordered it to submit audit records related to steering rod defects in a 2005 recall. That comes after a federal investigation into the delay in announcing the recall. The company had recalled several models including the Toyota 4Runners from the Japanese market in 2004, for steering rod defects. The company insisted that the same problem did not exist in American Toyota models, and that there was no reason for a recall here. However a few months later in 2005, Toyota recalled approximately 977,000 vehicles in the US for the same problem.

The Atlanta personal injury lawyers at the Katz Law Firm represent injured victims of car/auto/truck accidents in the Atlanta area and across Georgia.


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McDonald's Recall Throws Spotlight on Injury risk from Cadmium Exposure

It doesn't look like McDonald's wants to be at the receiving end of injury claims resulting from parental ire over its massive recall of drinking glasses last week. It is no accident that the company is offering a three dollar refund to parents who come in to return the glasses. The glasses were initially sold for two dollars each. McDonald’s clearly recognizes the risk of injury the glasses pose to children.

Last week, McDonald's announced a massive recall of approximately 13.5 million drinking glasses that were painted with characters from the Shrek movies. It was meant to be part of a promotional effort with McDonald's teaming up with the makers of the last of the Shrek movies, Shrek Forever After. Soon, testing showed that the paint, used in the designs of the glasses, contained cadmium, an injury causing substance. The designs featured four Shrek characters including Shrek, Fiona, Donkey and Puss in Boots. As soon as McDonald's found the high cadmium levels in the paint, it informed the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and announced the recall in an effort to stop any child from being injured. Parents who have bought these glasses can return these to the nearest McDonald's restaurant for a refund.

It's also the right time for Atlanta injury lawyers to focus attention on the risks of cadmium. It seems like concerns over lead-tainted products are slowly declining, and cadmium-related hazards are coming up in their place. Cadmium is a known carcinogen, and is found in shellfish, cigarette smoke and industrial settings.

Studies have indicated that exposure to high levels of cadmium can injure the lungs. Exposure over a period of time, leads to the development of cancer, as well as accumulation of cadmium in the kidneys, possibly contributing to kidney disease. Prolonged exposure has also been linked to loss of bone mineral density. Excessive exposure to cadmium can cause severe stomach irritation. More alarmingly, injuries from the effects of cadmium exposure seem to be amplified in children compared to adults.

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Yamaha Rhino Gets Product Liability Verdict for Plaintiff

A Georgia jury this week awarded a couple, damages of $317,000 in the first product liability lawsuit related to injuries from Yamaha Rhino All-Terrain Vehicles.

Roger McTaggart was injured in 2007 when his ATV flipped over, trapping his leg. He suffered crushing injuries in the accident. McTaggart filed a lawsuit against Yamaha, alleging defects in the Rhino ATV. According to his attorneys, the accident occurred on a flat piece of land on which it should have been safe to ride an ATV. McTaggart claimed in his lawsuit, that the Yamaha Rhino should've come with doors that would have contained the rider's legs, thereby preventing crushing injuries in case of a rollover..

Not surprisingly, Yamaha insisted that the injuries were caused not because of any inherent stability defect in the Rhino, but simply because the driver operated the vehicle in a reckless manner. It's highly likely that Yamaha will pursue this line of defense in most of the Rhino product liability lawsuits that are pending against it. Yamaha plans to appeal the verdict.

The verdict is likely to encourage plaintiffs’ attorneys representing clients who have suffered injuries in accidents involving Yamaha Rhino ATVs. This ATV accident resulted in no amputations or other serious injuries. It was considered a test case, and attorneys wanted to see how the case would proceed, and how juries would react to allegations that Yamaha failed to create a safe product.

Now that the jury has returned a verdict in favor of plaintiffs, it bodes well for several Yamaha Rhino product liability lawsuits that are still pending in the state. Most of these product liability lawsuits have been filed in Gwinnett County because Yamaha Motor Corp. USA's registered agent is located in Gwinnett County.

The Atlanta product liability attorneys at the Katz Law Firm represent injured victims of defective products around Georgia.


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Consumer Product Safety Database Available Next Year

New CPSC Database Will Let Consumers Know of Product Injuries Before a Recall

The Consumer Product Safety Commission is investing more than $20 million in establishing a searchable database that will make information about product injuries available to consumers before any recall is announced. It’s a development that was long overdue, and promises to offer American consumers the kind of information and knowledge they need to make safe choices for their families.

The final details of the database have not been established yet. It is likely to be available on, and is expected to be online by this time next year. Once up, the database will contain information about literally thousands of consumer products, from gifts, cribs, and strollers to power tools and electronic appliances.

The database will contain information about injury complaints filed by consumers, consumer safety groups, healthcare professionals and other interested parties to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Unlike the CPSC website, which only allows information about recalled products, the website would have details about injury complaints received from anywhere in the country. Once the database is up, all you have to do to verify the safety of your product is to look it up on the database.

Not everyone is happy with this new development, however. At least two members of the CPSC who voted against the establishment of the database are concerned about malicious information or wrong information making it to the database. Something like this, they argue, could permanently damage a brand’s or product’s reputation.

These are minor glitches however, and as Atlanta product liability attorneys, we remain confident that the CPC will iron out these problems. This much is clear- it's finally time to put product safety power back in the hands of consumers.

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NASA Investigates Toyota Defects

The investigation into the causes of acceleration in Toyota vehicles has taken a unexpected turn, with the Obama administration this week announcing that it was bringing in NASA scientists to help with the investigation.

There has speculation for quite a few weeks now that the causes for the acceleration go beyond floor mats or gas pedals. Space radiation experts have put forward the theory that modern vehicles with the massive amount of electronic circuitry they have on board, could be at risk from interference from space radiation. The effects of such radiation on consumer goods like cell phones and computers, have been known for a while now. These space radiation experts believe that Toyota cars, which come with massive amounts of electronics, could be at special risk for interference from cosmic rays. The announcement that the Toyota probe will now include NASA scientists has lent credence to those theories.

The Obama administration has also asked the National Academy of Sciences undertake a separate study into computer technologies in vehicles. This study will last for 15 months. The study is expected to look into the potential of computer malfunctioning and electromagnetic interference as factors in acceleration in these vehicles.

Toyota has thus far stubbornly refused to admit that there could be any problem with its electronics. In fact, it has all but ruled out any such electronic issues as a factor in the acceleration, and has consistently blamed the gas pedal and floor mats for the problem. This is, even as all evidence seems to point at electronic glitches.

As the investigation progresses, one thing is clear - we are even further from finding out what is causing these vehicles to accelerate, than when the scandal first broke. That’s definitely not good.

The Atlanta car accident lawyers at the Katz Law Firm represent injured victims of car accidents in and around the metro Atlanta area, and across the state of Georgia.


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Baby Slings Pose Suffocation Risk

Baby slings, those soft and snuggly baby carriers that are all the rage, have now come under the microscope at the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The agency is expected to make an announcement later this week, warning about the special risks of suffocation to babies, especially newborns, who are placed in these slings.

CPSC chairperson Inez Tenenbaum is expected to make the announcement, warning parents about the high risk of suffocation in certain kinds of sling designs. The risk, according to child safety experts, comes from the fact that many of the designs allow babies to settle into a comfortable fetal position, that  can have their chin touching their chest. In a position like this, there is a high risk of a respiratory blockage, and consequent suffocation. Some brands like the “Sling Rider" from Infantino have been named as posing a special risk because of the design. Besides, babies may be at risk in these slings when they turn towards the person carrying them, and become smothered in their clothes.

The risks from baby slings are not entirely new to injury lawyers in Atlanta. There have been at least seven confirmed reports of deaths of infants who have suffocated in these slings. In 2008, there were dozens of instances of babies falling out of the fabric slings, and injuring themselves.

The CPSC is obviously taking the matter very seriously because of the high popularity of these slings. As “baby wearing” has become popular, fathers have also jumped in to “sling” on their babies everywhere they go. With baby slings being a comparatively recent product, there are likely to be imperfections in design and construction that must be identified and addressed as quickly as possible.

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Food Poisoning Costs US Economy $157 Billion Per Year

For years, conservative estimates of losses from food borne illnesses in the US have placed the figure as low as $6.9 billion, and as high as $35 billion every year.  As a new report into food safety in the country shows, those figures are barely the tip of the iceberg. The report by the Produce Safety Project says that the actual cost of food borne illnesses annually amounts to a staggering $157 billion every year.

Injury lawyers in Atlanta have a close connection with the food safety issue. After all, it was the appalling hygiene and safety conditions at a peanut processing plant in our own Georgia that caused nuts to be contaminated with the Salmonella bacteria, and led to a nationwide epidemic that killed several people, and injured hundreds of Americans. The peanut butter salmonella epidemic was just one among several that have come out since then, and which continue to crop up at nauseating intervals.

Every year, according to research conducted by the Produce Safety Project, more than 76 million Americans suffer from a food borne illness. The researchers calculated the costs of these illnesses by adding not just the medical and hospital costs that the patient incurred, but also the lost quality of life as a result of the illness. They arrived at the total figure of $157 billion every year from these illnesses.

Earlier estimates only considered documented food borne illnesses, but a large majority of food poisoning cases in the country go unreported. Besides, federal agencies consider only a few select organisms like the E. coli or Salmonella organisms in their estimates, but ignore the large number of outbreaks traced to other kinds of microorganisms.

Food safety in the country continues to be a hot button issue, with too many glaring loopholes currently in the system. Food safety is not the responsibility of any single federal agency, and therein lies part of the problem. The responsibilities are divided among the Food and Drug Administration, the US Department of Agriculture and other agencies. There are far too many cracks in the system through which contaminated ingredients and products can slip through. When an epidemic does break out, it is difficult to trace the source, considering the complexities of the food supply chain in which different ingredients sourced from farms all over the country, make it to a single product.

We hope these new figures push our lawmakers into passing long pending food safety legislation.

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Auto Defect Blamed In Fayette County Child's Death

Auto Defect Blamed in Fayette County Child’s Death

It’s too soon to tell for sure, but investigators seem to believe that a mechanical defect was to blame for the tragic death of a 6-year-old child in Fayette County last week. The accident occurred when the Chrysler Sebring 1999 which was apparently in park mode, began rolling down the driveway, and struck the boy. He died instantly. The Fayette County sheriff’s office is blaming a defective ignition park interlock device for the accident.

Auto defects have been heavily in the news over the past couple of months. A  conspiracy of silence is currently unraveling at Toyota. Auto defects are being blamed for uncontrolled acceleration in several Toyota vehicles. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has already confirmed 34 reports of deaths or severe injuries as a result of accidents caused by the acceleration. 

Also this year, Honda Motor Corporation recalled a series of vehicles for air bag defects. This defect has contributed to at least one death in Oklahoma, and has resulted in a lawsuit against Honda. The defect causes the motorist to be injured from shrapnel during airbag deployment.

There is any number of factors that can contribute to an accident. Auto defects are just one of them, but these also happen to be some of the most difficult factors to prove. Toyota’s acceleration problem was evident as far back as 2002, and personal injury lawyers in Atlanta and elsewhere had been coming across cases where fatalities and injuries occurred after a car begin to speed up on its own, and then crashed. For automakers, admitting defects can set off a headache that can ultimately cost them billions of dollars, and an eroded reputation that can prove even costlier. Not surprisingly, the modus operandi at most automakers is to blame just about everything else for the crash, except the car itself.  By the time an automaker is forced to respond to the issue, several people may be injured, or even die.

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Trial Lawyers Keep Consumers Safe

The Wall Street Journal has published an opinion piece by a trial lawyer making the case for product liability trial attorneys who help keep manufacturers of defective products on their toes.

In the wake of the Toyota scandal, this much is clear. American consumers can expect little protection from agencies charged with the responsibility of keeping them safe. These agencies including the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Food And Drug Administration are supposed to monitor defective products, and pressure companies to pull them off the market as soon as manufacturers become aware of such defects.

All that is in theory. In reality, these agencies battle a wide range of problems that include funding shortages, staffing crunches, agency infighting and disagreement, allegations of corruption, conflict of interest and other symptoms of malaise that limit their abilities to protect the American consumer.

Take how the NHTSA has responded to the problem of unintended acceleration in Toyota vehicles. The agency has had numerous opportunities to recall models that were being linked to complaints of sudden acceleration. Complaints involving sudden acceleration have not surfaced over the past year. They have been steadily streaming in over the past five years at least. It was only after the death of four people in a Lexus accident in California last year that the agency finally seemed to wake from its slumber.

Similar lax attitudes have permeated the Food and Drug Administration, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Unsafe pharmaceutical drugs and defective medical devices have injured thousands of people over the past few years. Dangerous lead-tainted toys manufactured overseas have been allowed to reach the hands of children, causing several injuries and fatalities.

These agencies need plenty of funding and resources to help them discharge their duties properly. It’s fair to say those resources will not be arriving soon, as the federal administration grapples with a recession and a budget deficit. In a situation like this, it becomes the responsibility of trial lawyers in Atlanta and around the country to champion the cause of consumer justice, and protect consumers from dangerous products. That is an argument that even the tort reform lobby will not be able to refute.

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When did Toyota First Find Out About Acceleration Problem?

The NHTSA has said that it will begin examining documents to see when the Toyota first found about the safety problem that has seriously eroded its credibility, damaged its reputation and has had product liability lawyers in Atlanta and around the country, criticizing the manner in which the automaker has handled the issue. If the new NHTSA probe does indeed reveal that Toyota was aware of auto defects contributing to unintended acceleration in its vehicles much before it announced a recall, then the company will be in more trouble than previously thought.

The agency will also look at how quickly Toyota acted to begin a recall after it found out about the problem. If the NHTSA finds that the company delayed informing federal regulators or failed to initiate an immediate recall, it could be fined penalties of up to $16.4 million. The NHTSA requires that any automaker that finds defects in its vehicles reports these to federal regulators within 5 days of finding a defect. The company must also act quickly to initiate a recall. 

Toyota already had its credibility tarnished last year when one of its former lawyers alleged that the company concealed important documents during several of its product liability lawsuit proceedings. While those revelations had shocked Atlanta car accident lawyers then, they have taken on a new meaning in the light of the new unintended acceleration episodes that have emerged.   If the NHTSA probe shows that the company delayed a recall, it will boost the credibility of the lawsuits that are beginning to stack up. It will also stress what trial lawyers in Atlanta have maintained all long – that in the face of the failure of the NHTSA, it falls on us to hold Toyota responsible for its failings.

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How to Shop for Safe Toys During the Holidays

Georgia Product Liability Lawyers Show You How to Shop for Safe Toys

The year’s biggest shopping season has begun, and millions of parents will be making the all-important decision - what to give the special little someone in your life. While choices are endless, there is always the question of safety.

For the last couple of years, there has been huge media and legislative attention on lead content in toys. The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act set strict limits for lead paint on toys, and therefore, risks from lead contamination are now lower than they used to be. However, children continue to be at risk from toys with detachable parts, or sharp pointed parts that can pose penetration and choking hazards.

This month, the chairwoman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission assured Americans that toys in 2009 are much safer to buy than in 2007, when millions of children’s toys had to be recalled because of high lead content. Inez Tenenbaum is however, cautioning parents that they must also take care to buy age-appropriate toys.

WATCH, a child safety advocacy group has also released its annual list of Top 10 Worst Toys for 2009. The list includes toys that can cause blunt force and penetration injuries, as well as choking accidents. The list includes:

1.      Disney-Pixar Wall-E Foam Rocket Launcher

2.      Moon Board Pogo Board

3.      Curious Baby Curious George Counting – My First Book of Numbers

4.      Dark Knight Batman Figure

5.      X-Men Origins Slashin’ Action Wolverine

6.      Lots to Love Babies “mini nursery”

7.      Just Kidz Junior musical instruments

8.      CAT “rugged mini”

9.      Pucci Pups Maltese

10.Spy Gear Viper Blaster

The CPSC website also lists defective toys that have been recalled for safety reasons. We would encourage parents to check out the website, to make informed and safe choices.

The Georgia product liability attorneys at the Katz Law Firm represent victims injured through the use of defective products, including toys, pharmaceutical drugs, medical devices, automobiles and other consumer products.   

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Ford Inflatable Seatbelt Systems Promise to Reduce Risk of Injuries

Ford Inflatable Seatbelt Systems Promise to Reduce Risk of Injuries

As Georgia car accident lawyers, we are constantly monitoring new auto safety technologies that promise to keep drivers and passengers safe in an accident. Ford Motor Company has now announced the development of new inflatable seatbelt systems that we believe could be the next big thing in auto safety.

According to Ford, it will equip new Ford Explorers that are due to go into production next year, with the inflatable seatbelts in the rear seats. During a crash, the belt inflates and fills up with cold compressed gas. The gas is released after several seconds through tiny pores in the belt.

Ford’s new seatbelts offer the protection of both seatbelts and airbags, and promise to prevent injuries and fatalities in both front and side impact crashes.

Passengers in the rear seat tend to have a false sense of security that they will escape injuries in the event of an accident. For this reason, seatbelt usage among back seat passengers is very low with rates hovering around 62 percent, compared to about 80 percent for front seat occupants. According to Ford, studies have shown that the inflatable seatbelts are much more comfortable than traditional seatbelts, and this could encourage use of these seatbelts among backseat passengers.

Auto safety experts and Atlanta personal injury attorneys have welcomed Ford’s announcement. The automaker has had more than its share of safety scandals, including the Explorer rollover cases in the 1990s that ended in several people dead and hundreds more injured. With this new development, the automaker could salvage its reputation.

Over the past few years, Americans have shown a marked preference for cars with advanced safety technologies.  While many of these new features like Electronic Stability Control Systems are not available in all vehicles, the NHTSA is slowly encouraging manufacturers to make many of these features standard across all models. If the new inflatable seatbelts turn out to be as popular with customers as we hope, these could soon become a standard feature in all Ford vehicles in the future.

The Georgia car accident lawyers at the Katz Law Firm represent injured victims of auto accidents in Atlanta and across the state of Georgia.

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Babies Injured by Incorrect Use of Car Seats

A new report presented by a pediatric orthopedist at a pediatric conference in Washington is warning that newer models of child safety car seats, that double as baby carriers, may place children at a high risk of injuries. The risk comes from using the car safety seats outside the car. When these seats are placed on tables, counter tops, and soft surfaces like beds, the seats are likely to tip over injuring babies, and possibly suffocating them.

The report found that more than 8,700 babies suffer serious injuries every year when these car seats are used outside the car. Most injuries recorded in the study included head injuries, arm and leg fractures. The study looked at injuries that occurred between 2003 and 2007, and found that an estimated 680 babies a year suffered car seat injuries serious enough to require hospitalization. The researchers are calling for educating parents about the dangers posed when they use their car seats as baby carriers and baby beds, outside the car.

The use of car safety seats is estimated to have saved close to 9,000 lives over the past 30 years.  However, the amount of time a baby spends in a car seat has also increased. Placing a baby in a car seat for long periods of time can also lead to the development of a condition called container syndrome, marked by weak muscles and a flat shape to the head.

Defective Car Seats can Increase Risk of Injuries

None of this must be taken to mean that child safety seats are dangerous. If used properly and according to manufacturers’ specifications, car safety seats can mean the difference between life and death for babies involved in an accident. Make sure however, that you choose a good quality car safety seat made by a reputed manufacturer. Defective car seats can actually increase the risk of an accident for the baby. Also make sure that you refer to the CPSC list of recalled car safety seats before you make a purchase.   

The Atlanta product liability lawyers at the Katz Law Firm represent victims injured from defective car seats, faulty medical devices, dangerous pharmaceutical drugs, and other unsafe products 

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Toyota Rust Issues Invite Recall by NHTSA

Nestle Cookie Dough Recalled After Reports of E. coli Poisoning


Nestle SA has announced a recall of its Toll House cookie dough because of fears of E. coli contamination linked to dozens of cases of food poisoning nationwide. About 47 varieties of the cookie dough have been included in the recall.

The Food and Drug Administration has warned consumers not to eat Toll House refrigerated and prepackaged cookie dough because of the risk of E coli contamination. The agency has asked consumers who may have any of the pre packaged cookie dough to throw these away. Consumers have been advised that they could face the risk of food poisoning even if they cook the dough, because the bacteria might be transmitted to their hands and cooking surfaces. According to the FDA notice, the contamination was exposed in a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as state and local health departments.

So far, there have been 66 reports of illnesses from 29 states since March this year. 25 persons have been hospitalized and seven of these had suffered a complication called Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome [HUS] which can end in kidney damage and even death.  

E coli bacteria are transmitted through feces, and can spread through contaminated food and water. Symptoms include cramping, bloody diarrhea and vomiting. Most case of E coli infection can be treated in about a week. However in other cases, complications can develop. Around 5 to 10 percent of patients may develop a complication called Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome [HUS]. Symptoms include decreased frequency of urination, fatigue and paleness. Kidney damage may occur, and there may be other life threatening complications.

Persons who have recently eaten the dough must watch out for symptoms like abdominal cramps, diarrhea and vomiting. If any symptoms are seen, Georgia product liability lawyers would advise consumers to consult their physician immediately.


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Father of Child Injured by Crocs at Atlanta Airport Sues Company

The father of a boy who was injured when his Crocs shoes got caught in an escalator at an Atlanta Airport has filed a lawsuit against the company. The father Clark Meyer, is claiming $2 million in damages for injuries suffered by his son, identified only as “AM”.

According to the lawsuit, Meyer’s son was "severely and permanently injured" in the accident on July 15th last year. On that day, the boy’s foot was snagged on an escalator at Hartsfield Jackson International Airport. The boy who was four years old at that time suffered at least three broken toes and cuts. In the lawsuit, Meyer alleges that the company was aware of the dangers to children wearing the popular Crocs shoes in 2005, but that didn’t stop the company from marketing the shoes targeting young children.

It is the second such lawsuit filed in Atlanta in 2005 involving children and escalator injuries linked to the popular shoes. Crocs meanwhile has denied that the shoes cause any injuries.  The company blames faulty escalator design and the parents for the injuries suffered by children who wear their shoes.

In 2006, Crocs came under intense scrutiny by product liability attorneys and consumer safety groups after reports of the shoes being caught in escalators began coming in. The reports mostly involved young children, and the foot injuries have been severe. At the Atlanta airport itself, there have been multiple reports of shoe-related injuries, and almost all of them involved Crocs shoes.

The worries were severe enough for retailer American Girl to post signs in at least three of their stores, asking customers wearing crocs not to use escalators. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, there were more than 10,000 injuries related to escalator accidents in 2006, but only a few of them involved Crocs shoes. In 2008, the Consumer Product Safety Commission began alerting customers that soft sided shoes that were more pliable and malleable were likely to get stuck in escalators. However, the agency has never specifically mentioned Crocs in these injuries.

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Mattel Settles CPSC Lead Paint Violation Allegations with $2.3 Million Fine

Toymaker Mattel has agreed to pay $2.3 million to settle allegations that it imported and distributed toys that contained lead levels in paints that were in excess of federal standards.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission announced the penalties, the highest ever for importation and distribution regulation violations by the agency, on its website. Mattel and its subsidiary Fisher Price, have been charged with importing toy that contained lead levels that were higher than the .06 percent by weight, mandated by federal laws. Mattel was charged with importing 900,000 toys that were non compliant with the standard, while Fisher Price, according to CPSC allegations imported more than 1.1 million toys that did not comply with those safety standards. With the fines, Mattel has put those allegations to rest. 

The lead toy recall crisis of 2007 has had several positive effects – Congress moved to equip the generally-regarded-as toothless CPSC with more powers to prevent such crises. This led to the implementation of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, which sets standards for lead in children's products including toys, among other standards.

In the same week the penalties were announced, product liability lawyers learned of another serious defective children's product that has already had children being placed in dangerous situations. The CPSC has announced a recall of 5,000 cribs under the following brand names:

  • Bonavita Hudson
  • Babi Italia "Pinehurst" drop side cribs
  • Bonavita "Cabana" drop side cribs

The cribs were manufactured in Vietnam and China, and were imported by New Jersey-based LaJobi Inc.

In the case of the Bonavita Hudson and Babi Italia Pinehurst drop side cribs, a defective pin can pop out causing the drop sides to detach suddenly, creating an entrapment hazard for infants. In the case of the Bonavita Cabana drop side cribs, the wooden slats can break or detach, again posing a strangulation or entrapment hazard to little children. 

The company has received at least 16 reports of slat failures, and at least 33 reports of drop side detachment. Two children apparently became entrapped in these dangerous gaps, and one child fell off the crib.  In all cases, no injuries were reported. Parents have been urged to stop using these three cribs immediately.

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Bausch & Lomb Settles Hundreds of Eye Infection Lawsuits

After Bausch & Lomb Inc. went private in 2007, the contact lens maker conducted a quiet recall of its ReNu with MoistureLoc solutions, without much fuss and away from the public glare.

As it now turns out, the company also quietly settled nearly 600 product liability lawsuits brought against it by contact lens wearers across the country, who contracted a fungal eye infection called Fusarium Keritatis. These persons claimed that the infection, which left some of them with permanent eye damage, was the result of using the ReNu with MoistureLoc multi purpose solution. Fusarium Keratitis is an extremely rare infection which means that when these cases of infection began to show up in 2005, ophthalmologists were not able to diagnose the infection correctly and treat it properly. As the result, 60 people suffered enough eye damage to require a cornea transplant, and at least 7 people lost an eye.

Several of these injured users have had their lives impacted dramatically by the infection. One race car driver in Colorado had to give up his passion for racing after he suffered severe eye damage. A Broadway actress who suffered scarring in her eye was also one of those who filed a product liability lawsuit against the company.

There is very little information on how the infection developed. The company has come under severe criticism from ophthalmologists and product liability lawyers, who believe Bausch & Lomb has effectively silenced the truth. The settlements were cloaked in a shroud of secrecy, and clinical findings have not been made public. However, there may still be hope. There are still several more product liability lawsuits pending against the company, and we, at the Katz law firm, hope that more information about the infections comes out then.

Meanwhile, the Food and Drug Administration has been jolted enough by the eye infection crisis to announce that it will be reexamining its testing standards for contact lens solutions.

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Chrysler Bankruptcy Proceedings Could Leave Product Liability Lawsuits in the Cold

Automaker Chrysler's bankruptcy proceedings are leaving more than dealers and workers worried. There's another class of people who have much to lose if the automaker goes under, and little attention has been paid to their plight.

We are talking about the people who have pending product liability lawsuits against the company. These people will find that their dreams of justice are shattered when the spoils are distributed. Plaintiffs who have filed product liability lawsuits against the company fall in the unsecured creditors' group. While secured creditors include people who have collateral, unsecured creditors include plaintiffs and other corporations. These creditors are low on the pecking order when it comes to payouts. The secured creditors will get first preference, leaving the remainder of the funds to be distributed among the unsecured creditors. Corporations that are included in the unsecured creditors' group are likely to demand priority for their funds; leaving plaintiffs with peanuts after all other debts are paid.

According to the New York Times, it's still not clear how these pending lawsuits will be dealt with. They could be sent back to the original courts for a decision, after which the plaintiff who have won or settled may be able to go to the bankruptcy court for their money.

For these people who have suffered injures because of Chrysler vehicles, the situation seems week. However, the number of such people could rise if General Motors, which has far more numbers of product liability lawsuits, files for bankruptcy too.

Chrysler insists that it will do everything it can to "maintain goodwill with our customers." The company could have done more than just pay lip service to people who have been injured because of their defective vehicles. According to experts, Chrysler could have intervened, asking the court to give pending lawsuits priority among the unsecured creditors. The company could have cited the need to maintain good customer relations for such a priority request. 

It seems to be a familiar scenario - consumer rights are trashed, and they can expect few people, except product liability lawyers to stand up for their rights.

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General Motors Announces Recall of Vehicles for Auto Defects

General Motors and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have announced a set of three recalls for the new Chevrolet Camaro as well as several other models of pickup trucks and sports utility vehicles, because of auto defects.

The recalls involve a total of 43,824 vehicles. The Cadillac Escalade, Chevy Avalanche, Suburban, Tahoe, Colorado, the GMC canyon and Yukon are included in the first recall of about 27,118 cars. These vehicles have a faulty seal in the fuel control system that allows water to leak through, leading to short circuits, possible engine failures or stalling of the engine. The second recall involves 15,393 Traverse SUV’s for brake system compliance failure. The third recall involves 1,243 units of the 2010 Chevrolet Camaro.  The problem relates to a positive battery cable that can wear away, causing the vehicle to stall at the least, or cause an engine fire.

All three recalls have to do with serious safety problems in these vehicles. The Camaro in particular, is a highly anticipated model that seems to have already run into safety problems. There have already been at least four reports of problems with the worn out cable in these V-8 powered cars, although none of these incidents have resulted in injuries.

Auto manufacturers are required to inform the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration when there is a possible defect. In some cases, the agency may be forced to order for a recall. In any case, these defects may either be because of a safety issue, or because of a compliance failure with an existing federal guideline for safety. For a manufacturer, it actually makes more sense to recall the vehicles at the earliest signs of trouble, rather than wait till the problem has ballooned into a national safety crisis.

Unfortunately, as Georgia product liability lawyers know only too well, many auto companies even now, seem to think only in terms of the short term damage to their reputation and poor publicity that a recall will cause. The longer they wait to recall their defective vehicles, the higher the risks that people could be injured in accidents arising out of these defects. Driver negligence is still a factor in a majority of the car accidents that take place on our roads and highways every year, but a defective component in a vehicle can also play a part in causing serious injuries.

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FDA Warns Against Using Weight Loss Supplement Hydroxycut After Reports of Liver Injuries

In a month in which at least 34 weight loss products of a New York-based company were recalled by the FDA, the agency has issued another warning, this time to consumers who use popular weight loss supplement Hydroxycut, to stop using these immediately. The warning comes because of reported liver injuries in persons who took these products, including at least one death.

Hydroxycut has a lion's share of the weight loss supplement market with close to 9 million bottles reportedly sold last year alone. The supplement is popular with people on a diet because of its appetite suppressing properties. Besides, it is used widely by bodybuilders to define muscle tone. According to the FDA, some of the Hydroxycut products also have a serious side effect - they cause liver injuries. At least one person’s death has been linked to the weight loss supplement. A 19-year-old man reportedly died in 2007 from liver injuries. Also one person has had to undergo a liver transplant procedure after he suffered liver damage from using the product. According to the FDA, it has received at least 23 reports of liver injuries caused by the supplement.

The company that makes Hydroxycut, Canada based-Iovate Health Sciences has agreed to recall all Hydroxycut products, even though the FDA has linked only about 14 Hydroxycut products to liver injuries. The company however denies that the sole death was linked to its product in any way.

While drug makers are required to prove the safety and efficacy of their drugs before releasing them in the market, makers of nutritional supplements are not required to get FDA approval before releasing their products. The agency has little oversight over these products, and all it can do to protect the public from injuries is to monitor these supplements after they are released, and act when there are hazards reported.

This lack of oversight has in many cases, proved disastrous to users of these products. Product liability lawyers and consumer safety advocates have not forgotten the side effects of the Ephedra dietary supplement and the deaths resulting from its use.

It’s clear that the FDA must step in to increase it’s oversight over the nutrition and herbal supplement industry. Working after a supplement has been linked to injuries and deaths exposes potentially hundreds of thousands of people to serious health risks. Already there are concerns that there may be other products in the market that contain hydroxycitric acid, the ingredient in Hydroxycut that probably causes the injuries.  

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DeKalb County Ford Explorer Accident Trial Begins



A Ford Explorer trial involving a young woman, who suffered spine injuries in an accident involving a Ford Explorer, began in DeKalb County last week. Jessica Mundy, who was 22 years old when the accident took place, is claiming damages from Ford, alleging that a transmission design defect in her Explorer caused the SUV to suddenly shift from park to reverse. The accident left Mundy a quadriplegic.

Mundy claims she put her car in park, and got out to mail a package. The car ran over her, leaving her with a fractured spine. In January 2005, Ford had issued a repair service bulletin involving a transmission problem, and the alert covered a number of vehicles, including Mundy’s SUV. Her lawyer insists that the transmission repair which was conducted on her Explorer, could have contributed to the problem. The bulletin at the time warned owners, that transmission fluid could lead to their vehicles experiencing “delayed/harsh reverse engagements,” and asked owners to get a transmission fluid additive installed to correct the problem at their dealer. Another letter sent on April 2005 again reminded vehicle owners that if the vehicles were left to operate with the original factory-installed fluid, the danger of transmission shifting would actually increase.

More than 200 Ford owners have complained to the National Highway Transport Safety Administration about the transmission defect in the Explorer. In most of the complaints, there is a delay when the Explorer is shifted from park to reverse or from another gear to reverse. Other complaints have involved the vehicle slipping from park to gear, although Ford continues to deny that the complaints say any such thing.

The complaints filed with the NHTSA also report potentially serious accidents that have occurred because of the transmission defect. One complaint involves a child trapped under the vehicle when the Explorer started rolling in neutral. Other complaints call the Explorer a “public hazard” and insist that Ford was “doing absolutely nothing about it”.

This does concern Georgia personal injury lawyers. The Explorer in particular, has been linked to several safety risks. The SUV has been linked to a higher incidence of rollovers caused due to Firestone tire failures. In 2001, the company settled a lawsuit with a Texas woman who was paralyzed after an Explorer accident caused by a tire blowout, but the vehicles were never recalled.  

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States Moving to Crack Down on Sale of Defective Old Tires That can Cause Accidents

States Moving to Crack Down on Sale of Defective Old Tires That can Cause Accidents


An ABC News investigation last year revealed that thousands of motorists may be at risk for automobile accidents because their vehicles are fitted with aged tires that are older than the recommended age limit for tires. The investigation by “20/20” caught some of the biggest retailers in the country selling outdated and aged tires.  Now, states across the country are taking steps to ensure that retailers and dealers don’t fob old and weak tires on an unsuspecting motoring public.

The risk of a tire becoming dried out and prone to blowouts that can cause accidents increases after six years of age. The investigation, however found tires including some sold by Goodyear that were made in 1999 and 2002. Other investigations by ABC news affiliates around the county found outdated tires dating back to 1999 and 2001 sold at Wal-Mart. Old tires were also found at Wal-Mart stores in Florida, as well as Sears in New Jersey. Similar stories came in from across the county. The retailers including Goodyear and Wal-Mart insist that the age of the tire should not be taken as the most important factor in judging its safety.

Since the ABC investigation, several states have moved to enact laws that would prevent these old tires from being sold.

  • In California, the death of a 12-year-old boy in a rollover accident after the separation of the tread on an old tire has galvanized lawmakers into action. A bill requiring tire dealers to disclose the age of the tire in writing to a customer before the tire is sold or installed has been introduced. If the bill is passed, it would also require tire dealers to retain their sale documents for a minimum of three years.
  • New Jersey is also working on a law that would include an age disclosure clause.
  • In Hawaii, senators have introduced a bill banning the sale of tires that are more than 6 years old.
  • Suffolk County in New York has already adopted such a law, pending implementation.
  • In New York, assembly members have gone one step further, and introduced a bill that would require tire manufacturers to mold the date of manufacture on both sides of the tire, in a clear and non-coded manner. Currently, the date of manufacture comes in a form of cryptic code that’s hard for a majority of consumers to decipher.

Not surprisingly, all these bills are being opposed by the tire industry.  They would like for such rules on manufacture date markings to be the same across the country, and all states. However, with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration moving slowly to act on the problem, state lawmakers have no other option, but to pass legislation banning the sale of defective tires, to protect motorists in their own states. Are Georgia's lawmakers listening?  

Georgia accident attorneys and citizens' groups must demand that our legislators make efforts to prevent the sale of these old and defective tires here too. 

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Toy Company to Pay $1.1 Million to CPSC to Settle Defective Toy Allegations



The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has announced that Mega Brands America Inc. will pay a $1.1 million civil penalty to settle allegations that the company failed to inform the government about the dangers posed by its Magnetix building sets.

The defective toys were the subject of a recall in 2006 after a 22-month-old child died after swallowing tiny magnets that had come loose and fallen out of the toy. The first indication that Kenny Sweet's parents had that Kenny was sick was flu like symptoms. and shallow breathing. When he was taken to the hospital, his condition rapidly deteriorated, and he suffered a cardiac arrest. His left lung collapsed, and Kenny died soon after. His parents asked for an autopsy to find out what had happened to their precious little boy. The report arrived the next day, and the results were shocking. The coroner had found eight small magnets in Kenny's intestine. When Kenny’s horrified parents who suspected that the magnets could only have come from the Magnetix toys, checked the toy, they found several magnets missing.  

In 2005, Mega Brands which was then known as Rose Art Inc reported Kenny’s death to the CPSC. However, the company failed to provide any information about how the tragedy had occurred, and instead, claimed that the magnets probably fell out because of aggressive use of the toy. On February 1st 2006, the company again submitted a full report which did not mention any complaints it had received of the loose magnets falling out of the toy. In March, the company recalled close to 4 million units of the toy. The CPSC later discovered that when Rose Art had first reported Kenny’s death in December 2005, it has already receive more than 1,100 complains of magnets falling out of several magnetic toy models. These complaints had included at least one report of a child being injured after swallowing the magnet. By the time the company acted to recall the toys, the number of complaints had grown to more than 1,500 across 65 different models.

In April of 2007, the recall was expanded to include all magnetic sets, after more than 25 children had to be rushed to hospital emergency rooms with intestinal injuries from the ingested magnets. Several of these children required surgery to treat the intestinal perforations that had occurred.

Under law, Mega Brands should have reported to the CPSC within 24 hours of receiving information that indicated that there was a defect in the toy that could pose a danger of injury or death. Rose Art failed to do so, and as a consequence, several children suffered intestinal injuries. According to the CPSC, there are possibly millions of the recalled building sets still in existence in homes across the county. Product liability lawyers are encouraging Georgia parents who still have the building sets in their homes to get rid of these.

The Magnetix defective toys were just one among several defective toys and children’s products that have flooded the market since then. From toxic paints in children’s toys that expose children to lead poisoning to ingestible magnets, drawstrings that can choke a child as well as children’s products like defective cribs that can lead to suffocation and high chairs that are prone to seatback collapses, it's gotten to the point where parents simply can't take the safety of the product or toy that their child uses for granted.

If you have questions about your rights after injuries caused by a defective children's product, the lawyers at the Katz Law Firm can answer your queries. Contact a product liability lawyer at the Katz Law Firm for a free consultation.

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Calls for FDA to Split Grow Louder



Food and drug safety advocates and Georgia product liability attorneys have long called for a division of the Food and Drug Administration into separate agencies, each in charge of food and drug safety. These calls have gotten louder since the salmonella poisoning scandal earlier this year that's been linked to contaminated peanut butter. It’s obvious that the agency is over burdened, over stressed, and simply unable to handle the responsibilities of making sure that the food and medical products that Americans consume are completely safe to use.

Hopes for a split of the agency into separate divisions for food and drug safety received impetus last week when President Barack Obama named two health experts to top positions at the FDA. The President has tipped former New York City Health Commissioner Margaret Hamburg to be the agency's new commissioner. Joshua Sharfstein, a pediatrician has been picked by the President to be deputy commissioner. Sharfstein has long been a strong critic of health issues, including the safety of children’s cold medicines. FDA insiders believe that the President's choice of 2 respected health experts points to his being in favor of dividing the agency into two. The President has also appointed an advisory group which will be re-evaluating archaic American food safety laws, many of which are several decades old.

The FDA has traditionally focused on drug safety as its primary responsibility, and critics have complained that the issue of food safety comes up at the agency only when there is a crisis like the recent salmonella epidemic.  It has been apparent even to a casual observer that the FDA has too many responsibilities and too few resources. The drug industry is reportedly in favor of a split agency because it would lead to quicker drug approvals. Besides, having a single drug safety agency will mean better oversight over drug approvals, and more stringent following of approval processes.

There is no doubt that the FDA in its present state is chained by antiquated laws that compromise the state of our citizens' health. As a commentator puts it, it makes little sense that the agency responsible for inspecting peanut butter plants is also entrusted with the responsibility of monitoring the quality of super sophisticated medical devices costing thousands of dollars. The splitting up of the FDA into two will result in enhanced food and drug security, making Americans safer. It's an idea whose time has come, and as attorneys who constantly represent victims in food and pharmaceutical drug-related product liability lawsuits, we hope that the new administration will act to implement such a division.   

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Democratic Lawmakers Introducing Legislation to Overturn Immunity for Medical Device Companies


Democratic lawmakers are planning to introduce legislation that would overturn a Supreme Court decision in February 2008 barring injured patients from suing a medical device company if the device had already received Food and Drug Administration FDA approval. In effect, the legislation promises to return patients their right to sue medical device makers for injuries sustained after using their products.

In February 2008, the Supreme Court ruled that injured patients or their survivors could not sue companies that manufactured medical devices that had FDA approval. Since the ruling was passed, judges around the country have thrown out several hundreds of lawsuits that were filed by patients and their families against manufacturers of defective medical devices. Now Henry A Waxman, Democrat from California and Frank Pallone Junior Democrat from New Jersey, have plans to introduce legislation that would overturn the Supreme Court decision. The Supreme Court ruling was based on the premise that approval by the FDA took preemption or precedence over product liability laws in individual states. Judges around the country have cited the Supreme Court decision as the reason for their dismissal of several medical device product liability lawsuits.

Since the Supreme Court ruling was passed, Atlanta product liability attorneys, pharmaceutical injury experts and patients' advocates have been vocal in their opposition to the law which essentially cuts off individual rights to justice in the event of an injury. It is important to understand how serious some of these injuries are. Defective Medtronic defibrillators have resulted in a massive shock being delivered to patients' heart, and there have been other serious injuries including burning and scarring injuries caused by malfunctioning joints and other devices. These injured victims used devices that were approved by the FDA, but can hope for little justice as long as the Supreme Court decision rules. The FDA has time and again failed in its duty to make sure that medical devices entering the market are free of defects. It has severe critics both within and outside the organization who are concerned about botched approval procedures, and even corruption at the agency. If the new Democrat-sponsored legislation passes, patients can hope for justice again.            

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If it isn’t contaminated drugs, tainted milk products and lead painted toys that Georgia product liability attorneys constantly encounter, it's the prospect of being poisoned in your own home by defective drywall. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is investigating whether gases emitted from Chinese-made drywall pose a safety risk to house owners, including those in Georgia.

The investigation is linked to complaints of sulfur-like gases that were being emitted from the drywall, resulting in corrosion of electrical wiring and plumbing in a few homes in Florida. Drywall is commonly used in the construction of interior walls, and currently the CPSC has no standards for the material. The drywall that has been the focus of close to 100 complaints by homeowners in Florida to the state's department of health, was imported from China due to a shortage. The CPSC investigation will look at whether there are potential safety hazards in the use of the drywall, and whether a recall needs to be issued for the defective drywall. Besides Florida, the problem is expected to be particularly high in gulf coast states like Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi. Parts of Louisiana and Mississippi that were badly ravaged by Katrina are likely to have several houses that were rebuilt after the hurricane, using the toxic drywall.

Symptoms of sulphur poisoning from the drywall include sulphur odors that are similar to the smell of rotten eggs. The house may have more problems with this electrical wiring and air conditioning systems that can’t be explained easily. Most importantly, people living in the house could be experiencing frequent respiratory tract infections, and unexplained dizziness.   

Frustrated home owners are already beginning to explore their legal options. The number of people discovering that they have drywall with sulphur toxicity around the country is increasing. If you suspect that your house has defective drywall (if your house was build between 2005 and 2008) you can call your health department to test whether there is a sulfur toxicity problem, and if it can cause health problems.  Besides suffering from respiratory problems and dizziness, home owners with the defective drywall could also find themselves having to tear down their homes to remove the material.

Georgia Product Injury Attorneys

It seems like American consumers are being increasingly handed cheaply made foreign products which they end up paying the full price for anyway. Defective products are entering almost every aspect of our lives – from the food we eat, the medicines we take, the toys our children play with, and now it seems, even the houses we live in. We can’t wish away globalization, but as product liability attorneys we can demand that products manufactured abroad to cut costs meet the safety standards that apply to American-made products.

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Georgia Introduces Pharmaceutical Immunity Bill



Earlier this month, we reported on Governor Sonny Perdue’s proposed legislation granting immunity from civil liability to pharmaceutical companies and medical device makers if their products had already received FDA approval. Earlier this month, a bill was introduced outlining many of the same proposals that the governor mentioned, and underscoring the fears of patients, civil justice advocate and Georgia product liability attorneys.

The Bill, Senate Bill 101 grants immunity to these companies from any injury lawsuit brought by Georgia residents if the injury was caused by a pharmaceutical drug or medical device that had FDA approval. It’s clearly aimed at attracting Big Pharma investment into the state with civil liability immunity being the Unique Selling Proposition (USP). What it essentially does, however, is sacrifice patients' rights to hold these companies accountable for injuries or deaths caused by their products. At the risk of sounding dramatic, we believe victims of device and pharmaceutical injury will be at the mercy of these companies.

The bill relies on a foundation that has been found to be increasingly fragile in recent years. FDA approval of drugs and devices has come under the scanner after several drugs and devices were forced off the market when injuries and risks associated with their use came to light. Do the names Vioxx, Heparin and Medtronic defibrillator leads ring a bell?

The FDA itself has admitted that it has been unable to cope with the increasing challenges of globalization, including its ability to inspect foreign facilities that manufacture ingredients used in pharmaceutical drugs.  In a dismal product safety scene like this, product liability lawsuits are the only thing protecting Georgia’s residents from dangerous drugs and medical devices. Take that away and you have a scenario in which the FDA continues to dither, and pharmaceutical companies are free to push inadequately tested drugs and devices into the American market.

The promise of more jobs and prosperity in Georgia also seems like a hollow one. Michigan, the only other state that has civil liability immunity for pharmaceutical companies, has actually seen a number of its pharmaceutical jobs move out of the state after the immunity bill was passed. So it’s fair for Georgia’s personal injury lawyers to ask our legislators- how exactly does Bill 101 benefit our people?

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Georgia Salmonella Outbreak May Lead to Greater Food Safety


In the days since we were first informed that the nationwide salmonella food poisoning outbreak originated at a Peanut Corporation of America plant in Blakely, Georgia, the death toll from the outbreak has reached 9, the number of people sickened from salmonella tainted products has risen to 19,000 and food poisoning lawsuits have been filed.

Last week, Stewart Parnell, president of Peanut Corporation of America was summoned to Washington to testify at a congressional hearing. Meanwhile, skeletons have been tumbling at the PCA. Former employees at the Blakely plant have come forward to sing like canaries about the abhorrent sanitation practices at the plant. According to one employee, he once found baby mice inside a packet of peanuts. The same employee also claims that he has been witness to the practice of pasting new stickers on jars of old peanut paste, and has seen holes drilled by rats in sacks of peanuts. A new FDA report also indicates that management at the Georgia plant continued to ship out products that they knew had tested positive for salmonella contamination. According to the report, the company continued to retest its products until test results showed findings that were more to its liking - that the peanut butter was salmonella free.

The concern over products from the Georgia plant is so intense that the FDA has asked consumers to throw out any peanut butter products made at the plant over the past 2 years.

The fallout from the salmonella peanut butter scandal has been huge. Food poisoning lawyers are now adding punitive damages to their product liability lawsuits against Peanut Corporation America because of the fact that plant management continued to ship out peanut butter even after they had knowledge of its contamination.    

In Georgia, lawmakers have introduced a bill enabling health officials to conduct inspections of food processing plants.  The legislation would also mandate companies to report these inspection results to regulating authorities. In the nation's capital too, efforts to upgrade food inspection standards are being made. Several new bills are being developed to overhaul food safety standards in the country, and these include requiring companies to report their food testing results to state or federal authorities.

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Study Shows Importance of Car Seats

A new report underscores the importance of car seats in saving infant and toddler lives in the event of an automobile accident. New research by a California group indicates that the chances of toddlers and infants dying in an accident drop by as much as 75 percent when they are strapped into these safety seats.

Of course we've always known that car safety seats are very effective at reducing fatality rates in children who tend to be the most vulnerable victims in the event of   a collision, but this study manages to hit home just how important these seats can be to protect their occupants. The two researchers who conducted the study, Thomas Rice and Craig Anderson, analyzed data from nearly 6000 accidents between 1995 and 2006, and compared the information to arrive at some startling statistics.  In the case of babies below the age of one year, the odds of dying in a crash declined by as much as 73 percent, while in the 1-2 year age group, the odds of dying went down by 76 percent. 2-3 years olds had a reduced risk of fatality that was close to 60 percent if they were properly restrained in a car seat.

Of course, it goes without saying that these benefits are only valid if the car seats are of high quality, and meet all safety standards for children's products. There's no point in having a child strapped in a seat with improper buckles that can snap open in the event of a collision, or one that has defective clips that can slip open, releasing the child from the safety of the seat. Child seats also need to be made of safe materials with sufficient padding that can actually cushion a child from the force of impact during a collision. Stricter standards and demands for more safety features by parents have led manufacturers to design and create safer car seats, but safety issues continue to crop up every year. The unfortunate fact is that these issues come to light only when there is an unfortunate accident that exposes the instability of a defective car seat.

Defective car seats are just one example of how manufacturers can renege on their responsibility to manufacture safe products for consumers. When a defective or dangerous product causes injuries, victims may be able to claim damages from the manufacturer as well as distributors or suppliers of the product. An experienced Atlanta product liability lawyer can help you recover compensation for injuries received from use of a defective product.

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Georgia Peanut Butter Plant Has History of Poor Sanitation


The Georgia peanut butter plant at the center of the salmonella food poisoning crisis has a poor sanitation record, and has frequently been cited for health and sanitation violations, the NY Times (via Tort Deform) reports. Judging by the condition of the plant in our very own Blakely, Georgia, the media and food poisoning lawyers should not even be surprised that a nationwide outbreak of deadly salmonella poisoning has originated from this facility.

The Peanut Corporation of America plant has been cited several times since 2006 for health violations. Inspectors have frequently found the facility full of large gaping holes in its food security mechanisms. These include grease accumulation inside the facility, doors with large holes that a rat could easily squeeze through, and dirt and grime everywhere. The plant had areas caked with rust that could easily disperse and fall into food products, and poor sanitization of surfaces meant for food processing. Peanut butter packets were left lying around uncovered.   These violations continued even till 2008, when inspection reports continued to mention numerous violations. 

Dirty and unsanitary conditions breed rodents and insects. Animal feces are just one of the ways that the salmonellum bacterium spreads. The risk of infectious disease is the reason why food processing and preparation plants and establishments that serve food like restaurants, are put though numerous safety inspections. From the report in the Times, it seems like that the plant was a salmonellosis time bomb waiting to go off.  

While the plant was getting away with maintaining unsanitary conditions that would have been more at place in a Third World rubber factory than an American food processing plant, the FDA in its usual somnambular fashion, was debating when best to alert Americans that hundreds of thousands of packets of their favorite peanut butter contained the salmonella bacterium besides peanuts, salt and hydrogenated vegetable oil. The very first product liability lawsuit has already been filed in a Georgia court by parents of a Vermont boy who became sick after consuming the contaminated butter.

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FDA Reviewing Drug Labeling Charges


Product and pharmaceutical liability lawyers have been seriously worried about the impending outcome of Wyeth vs. Levine and the preemption doctrine.

In December, this blog discussed the case of Wyeth and Levine and federal/state preemption issues.  We await the United States Supreme Court's decision on this issue.  Meanwhile, the FDA is having to answer to these problems.  

The New York Times is reporting that the U.S Food and Drug Administration may be launching criminal investigations into complaints made by several scientists against agency officials. The complaints go back to November of 2008 when the House Energy and Commerce Committee received a letter from scientists at the FDAs Center for Devices and Radiological Health division. The letter made serious allegations that management at the CDRH had been interfering with the process of approving medical devices. The scientists complained that they were being "forced" into rushing ahead to approve devices, bypassing standard procedures. The letter galvanized the ECC committee to launch an enquiry. Now, nine scientists who had made that complaint have written a letter to President Obama alleging that FDA officials may launch criminal investigations into those complaints. The letter states that it is "an outrage that our agency would step up the retaliation to such a level because we have reported their wrongdoing to the United States Congress."   


The FDA hasn’t bothered to confirm or deny these reports.

Just 2 weeks ago, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report of federal agencies that were in need of major improvement. The FDA was included in the list, and part of the reason was its sloppy approval procedures for medical devices that have resulted in unsafe and defective devices being rushed into the market. The GAO’s findings correspond with the claims made by the CDRH scientists, and should be enough reason to us to worry about any preemption doctrine that would snatch away a consumer's rights in case he suffers an injury from a defective device approved by the FDA. The entire premise of preemption is based on the logic that the FDA can be trusted to guarantee the safety of the devices it approves. However, as we are beginning to see in the increasing numbers of defective drugs and devices being released into the market, as well as evidence from the agency's own scientists that the approval processes are being several compromised, the FDA stamp of quality is hardly something we can rely on.

Taking away a patient's right to hold a company responsible for injuries caused by its defective product would finish off the last hope that consumers have for safety and reliability in the medical devices they use. The FDA fails the American consumer far too often – let’s hope the Supreme Court doesn’t.


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Worst Toys of 2008 - Will 2009 Be Any Better?

The year 2000 was the year of several dangerous toy recalls, many of which were the focus of product liability lawsuits around the country. This list of the 10 most dangerous toys of 2008 includes toys that pose hazards of choking and aspiration, lead contaminated toys as well as those that are prone to fire and burn hazards.

It isn’t clear if the list is in any particular order of danger or number of injuries caused, but it kicks off with Air Hogs RC Helicopters that came with the danger of exploding lithium-powered batteries. Many of the toy related scares of 2008 - and there were plenty of them – were linked to children being able to remove the detachable magnets from toys, and swallow these. Several dozen children were rushed to emergency rooms with perforated intestines, after swallowing magnets that later began to stick to each other through intestinal walls. Most of these injuries required surgery. The toys that came with magnets attached included earrings that contained a small magnet inside, and these make it to the list too. Other noteworthy defective playthings include backpacks containing off-the-chart levels of lead contamination, balloon sets, Dora the Explorer Lamps (which are actually electrical items and not really play things, but try explaining that to kids who see their favorite Dora on the lamp, and want to play with her), and high decibel High School Musical Rockerz.

Also on the list are children's toys containing phthalates, a chemical compound that is often mixed with plastic to make it softer. These have been found connected to reproductive problems in male children, including a drop in testosterone levels, as well as genital abnormalities. Linking phthalates to these disorders has been the easy part – the challenge lies in finding out what products contain these chemicals, present as they are in a variety of consumer products, from air fresheners to teething rings. Phthalates are never mentioned in the list of ingredients, which means that most of us who use these cosmetics, perfumes, cleaners, and toys risk being exposed to them every day. Expect to hear more reports of injuries and illnesses associated with phthalates use in toys in 2009.

We hardly expect the toys our children play with to explode during play, or damage their hearing with the kind of high decibel sounds they come with. Yet these very basic safety principles seem to fall by the wayside time and again when it comes to introducing a new toy in the market. Often, it falls on Atlanta toy injury lawyers to take up the cause of holding manufacturers responsible for their negligence in introducing these dangerous toys.

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FDA Continues to Sleep Over Food Safety has an interesting story about how well we can expect our federal agencies to ensure that the food that makes it to our tables is safe to eat. The focus of the story is but naturally, the salmonella food poisoning crisis that has engulfed the country with 6 deaths connected to the epidemic so far.

The biggest source of concern to American consumers in this latest crisis, the report says is the manner in which the Food and Drug Administration dragged its feet for more than three months before confirming an outbreak. The latest crisis that has involved the agency's food safety protocol has had consumer safety advocates, food poisoning lawyers as well as the public, wondering how the FDA which found out weeks ago that the Georgia plant of Peanut Corporation of America was the source of the particular strain of Salmonella found in the contaminated peanut butter, could have waited so long before they even confirmed the source. The FDA continued to mouth the same line - that the peanut butter in question was only sold to restaurants, nursing homes and food companies, but they still have not released a list of all Peanut Corporation of America clients who may have received the contaminated butter. The FDA's outdated practices mean that manufacturers are rarely forced to recall their products. The agency prefers to rely on voluntary recalls by companies, and in many cases, these are too late to prevent severe illnesses.

More companies meanwhile are queuing up to announce recalls of their products that contain peanut butter. General Mills has recalled 2 varieties of snack bars because butter used in the snacks came from the Peanut Corporation of America. Other companies including Perry’s Ice cream Company, Food Lion Cookie, Hy-Vee Inc, have all removed their products containing peanut butter from store shelves as a precautionary measure because of the fear that these could contain traces of the contaminated butter.

What's important to note is that these companies are not being asked by the FDA to recall these products, but are doing it voluntarily. You may wonder what exactly it is that the country's premier food safety agency does to justify its existence, when the number of people sickened by Salmonella contamination that surfaced in September has crossed 470 with 6 people dead and at least 90 hospitalized? Citizens, the media and food poisoning lawyers have no problem being up in arms when contaminated products made overseas make it to our table, but it is time to admit that we do have a food safety crisis of our own going on in the U.S.

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Eli Lilly Agrees To $1.42 Billion Fine to Settle Zyprexa Litigation

Eli Lilly & Co. has agreed to a settlement with federal regulators that will include a fine of $615 million to settle criminal lawsuits, and a further $800 million to resolve civil litigation related to injuries caused by its anti psychotic drug Zyprexa. That makes the total fine amount to close to $1.5 billion, said to be the largest criminal fine for an American company. The company will plead guilty to one misdemeanor charge, and will not plead guilty to wrongdoing in any civil case.

The punishment is for the company's indulgence of off-label use of its Zyprexa medication. Off-label use is the promotion of a drug by a company for purposes other than that for which it has been approved. It's not prohibited for doctors to prescribe drugs for purposes other than that for which it was specified, but pharmaceutical companies are expressly forbidden from promoting such off label use of the drug. 

Zyprexa is an anti psychotic drug that is meant for use by patients who suffer from schizophrenia or bipolar mania, but that didn’t stop Eli Lily from promoting the product as a sleep medication for elderly dementia patients. Between 1999 and 2003, thousands of Eli Lilly representatives were urged to promote use of Zyprexa for use in dementia patients. Documents produced in court have shown that the company greedily pushed Zyprexa to treat a variety of disorders that it was never approved for, including aggression, dementia and dementia related to Alzheimer's Disease. The company began promoting the medication in assisted living facilities and long term care nursing homes. Effects of the medication like weight gain were already becoming evident, but Eli Lilly's representatives pooh poohed these, saying these were part of the benefits of taking the medication. Representatives were urged to market the drug for symptomatic treatment, even in cases where the drug had not been approved. Incidences of patients dying from heart attacks and infections after using the drug began to surface, and finally in 2006, the FDA ordered the company to have strong warning labels that cautioned patients of the drug's risk for elderly patients. Since then, the company has paid out $1.2 billion in settlement of at least 32,000 injury claims that were brought against it. This new settlement is in addition to the previous one.

Eli Lilly's greed for profits at the cost of the health of thousands of patients isn’t the first instance of corporate greed by a pharmaceutical company, but it was astonishing in how widespread and audacious the unscrupulous practices were.  Too often, pharmaceutical companies throw ethical practices to the wind, instead choosing to boost bottom lines, even when it's evident that such practices could put the lives of thousands of patients at risk. In cases like this, victims can claim compensation for their injuries through a product liability attorney who can help evaluate the damages suffered, and the company's liability in causing these.  

If you have been injured or fallen sick because of a defective medication, then you may be able to claim damages for your suffering. Contact a product liability lawyer at the Katz law to evaluate your options for compensation.

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According to the Department of Public Health, five cases of the salmonella food poisoning that have been reported across the country have been found in Georgia. A few days ago, the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control announced an outbreak of salmonella poisoning in 42 states. The outbreak apparently occurred between October to December, and has sickened close to 400 people. One elderly woman who died during the period had been infected at the time of her death, but it hasn’t been confirmed if she died because of the poisoning. 

Now, fresh reports confirm that a brand of peanut butter has been traced as the source of the contamination. Batches of King Nut and Parnell's Pride peanut butter that were distributed by King Nut Cos, and supplied to schools, nursing homes and restaurants, have been recalled. The batches were only sold to institutions, and were not available directly to the public. The company apparently only distributed the product which is manufactured by Peanut Corporation of America. The link was traced when tests conducted by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and Health on the peanut butter batches revealed a match with the strain of salmonella Typhirium type that has been responsible for the outbreak.

Symptoms of salmonella poisoning include abdominal cramps, fever and diarrhea. In cases of serious infection, hospitalization may be required. The symptoms are particularly acute in the case of children, elderly or those who have weakened immune systems. In serious cases, the infection may spread to other parts of the body, and death can result.

The most common sources of contamination are meat, fresh produce, eggs and dairy products. Non pasteurized milk, semi cooked or uncooked meat and eggs are frequently traced to such outbreaks. People who work in the food processing or preparation industry like restaurant workers, or employees of meat packing plants, or in the case here, a peanut butter manufacturing company are required to be extra careful when it comes to maintaining personal hygiene, because of the possibility of salmonella contamination spreading to customers.

Almost always, salmonella contamination can be traced to carelessness or negligence at some point in the chain, from the moment a product is made, to its delivery into the hands of the customer. In order to claim compensation in case of illness due to salmonella poisoning, a personal injury lawyer will have to prove that that the illness was caused because of the careless actions of the persons responsible for ensuring that their products were safe, and that the illness caused by this contamination was severe. If you have been sickened as a result of the salmonella food poisoning outbreak in Georgia, the product liability attorneys at the law firm of Robert N. Katz can help you evaluate your situation and your options for compensation. Contact a Georgia food poisoning lawyer at the Katz law firm for a free review of your case.


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The United States Supreme Court heard oral argument in November in a case called Wyeth vs. Levine. The case comes out of a Vermont Supreme Court decision. Diane Levine was a musician who suffered from migraine headaches. A physician’s assistant administered the drug Phenergan during a “push-IV” injection. The PA accidentally injected the drug into Levine’s artery instead of a vein. This caused tissue necrosis, gangrene, and the eventual amputation of her hand and forearm.

The drug Phenergan, manufactured by Wyeth, had a warning label that warned of this risk if the drug was injected into an artery. The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) had approved the label. Levine warned that the label did not warn of the risks associated with hitting an artery during a push-IV.   A Vermont jury awarded Levine $6.8 million against Wyeth. Wyeth argued that the approval by the FDA constituted pre-emption by federal law of state law tort claims. The Vermont appellate courts upheld the verdict, and Wyeth appealed at the federal level. 

The United States Supreme Court is now considering whether federal law supersedes state law in drug labeling cases. Currently, state law could supercede federal requirements if new information became available about the drug or the FDA failed to disclose certain risks. In this case, however, Wyeth knew of the risk of harm and did in fact warn of the risk. The risk of harm caused by injecting into an artery is a 1 in 20 million chance of a gangrene adverse reaction.   Levine argues the warning should have been stronger, specifically that the push-IV method increased the risk of hitting an artery.  

The issue here is really whether the FDA sets minimum standards that states are free to enhance through tort liability or whether the FDA makes decisions that states are bound to follow?   Federal preemption is one of the hardest fought battles in products liability law. This question will determine whether FDA approval of drugs will prevent patients from suing drug companies when the drug in questions received an FDA approval.   


Wyeth argues that removing preemption will result in drug companies listing all possible harm on their labels, causing an undue burden on these companies and possibly lessening the value of information available to the user.   Plaintiffs’ attorneys argue that federal preemption will effectively cause patients to lose their right to sue drug companies for harm caused by the drug. 

One problem with giving so much power to the FDA is its inherent ineffectiveness. Currently, the FDA is under funded and understaffed to handle the $1.5 trillion dollars worth of goods it must inspect and evaluate. Drug companies can now pay user fees to speed up approval of their products. Further, drug companies bankroll one-fifth of the FDA budget. Arguably, a rush for approval compromises the quality of oversight. Thus, it is not surprising that drug companies want the FDA to have the last word on drug safety.   As Maggie Mahar said in her Healthbeat blog: there is no easier regulatory process to navigate than the one you control. 

The Journal of the American Medical Association wrote recently in support of Levine that “the drug and device regulation system is at best an inexact and incomplete science.” More is learned about drugs once millions of people start taking them. This information is often more useful than that conducted in the limited trials done by the FDA during the approval process. Drug companies often learn about the dangers caused by their drugs once they are at market; and they do not often report these findings back to the FDA after approval. 

Thus, a victory for federal preemption means that the drug companies that are fast tracking their drugs through the FDA’s process cannot later be held accountable for harm their drugs cause. Hopefully, the Supreme Court will see through this problem. We shall see.   

If you have a claim or think you have a claim for products liability involving a drug company or drug product, contact the law firm of Robert N. Katz for a free, private consultation.            

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Drug manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline won a significant ruling this week in the Third Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals in Colaccio vs. Apotex. SmithKline, the manufacturer of the anti-depressants Paxil and Zoloft, defended two separate state tort claims that the manufacturer failed to warn of the risk of suicide from taking the drug. Plaintiffs product liability suits failed. 


In a split decision, the Third Circuit ruled that federal regulatory law pre-empted state tort law claims in cases against manufacturers of anti-depressants for failure to warn of the risk of suicide.  


Anti-depressants are drugs known as selective serotonin re-upate inhibitors (SSRIs). The drugs block the re-absorption of serotonin into the brain. Serotonin is a natural body chemical that regulates mood, sleep and appetite. By blocking the re-absorption the brain cells get an extra dose of a feel-good chemical. Some experts believe that the increase in serotonin causes a drop in the natural chemical dopamine. Dopamine regulates cognition and behavior.


In 1991 the Food and  Drug Administration (FDA) Advisory Panel showed that there was no causal link between anti-depressants and suicide or violent behavior. However, in 2003 a subsequent FDA panel issued a Public Health Advisory for Paxil, Zoloft and other SSRIs urging health care providers to be on the lookout for worsening of depression and the onset of suicidal behavior in the beginning stages of drug therapy or if dosage amounts change. Although none of the drug trials showed an increase in suicide, the FDA has asked drug manufacturers to issue stronger labels.   However, given the lack of scientific data, strong warnings are not required.


From documents obtained through discovery in the civil jury trials, SmithKline was aware that a small number of people could become agitated or violent while on the drugs. Despite this knowledge, no warning was placed on the label. Experts believe that the drug may cause a side effect known as akathisia. Akathisia causes overwhelming mental and physical restlessness. Some medical experts believe this causes patients to be sufficiently energized to harm themselves or others.


In the recent two cases on appeal before the Third Circuit, one district court held that the plaintiff’s product liability claims were pre-empted by federal regulatory FDA rulings. Another district court ruled the opposite, federal law did not pre-empt a state tort suit. In the majority opinion, the Third Circuit held that the FDA was a regulatory agency specifically mandated to scientifically assess the nature of drugs and the warning required. The court held that state tort law could not pre-empt federal law, and therefore the state suits on the failure to warn could not go forward.


The dissenting opinion argued that in many ways the FDA is an imperfect agency as it receives much of its data from the drug manufacturers. Discovery in state tort lawsuits provides a different way for third parties to raise questions about new and existing drugs. The dissent argued that policing drug companies is helped through tort suits, which act as a companion investigative tool for the FDA. 


However compelling the dissent argument, as it stands, where drug manufacturers are not required to place a warning label on drugs, plaintiffs have no ground for suit on the issue of failure to warn.


Antidepressants account for $14 billion a year of wholesale drug revenues in the United States. When the best-selling and most profitable drug poses a risk of suicide, drug manufacturers have a strong incentive to quash warning claims. Often there exists a clash between the manufacturers marketing tactics and the well-being of the consumer. Regulatory agencies must be above the tactics of drug companies. The pharmaceutical industry is regulated because drugs can cause serious harm and drug companies, with their financial conflict of interest, cannot be relied upon to serve the public interest. 


At this point in the legal field, however, for consumers of anti-depressants drugs it is “buyer beware.”


If you have a product liability claim against a drug manufacturer, contact Robert N. Katz for a free private consultation.    

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Product Defects Evident in 2007 Automobile Recalls

Former Mitsubishi President, Katsuhiko Kawasoe, was sentenced in Japan last week for professional negligence for his role in covering up defects in Mitsubishi trucks in cars over a three-year period from 1997 to 2000.  Apparently, the auto manufacturer hid defects in its clutch system on several models of trucks and cars.  The defect caused the brakes to fail.  In some cases, occupants were killed in collisions caused by the faulty system.  Wrongful death suits arising from these collisions uncovered the scandal.


Mitsubishi hid reports of defects, choosing to secretly repair the cars when brought into dealerships rather than issue a product recall that would have protected consumers.  When news of the cover-up came out, sales plummeted, and company officials were forced out in disgrace.  Subsequently, those officials were charged with professional negligence and criminal violations for falsifying reports and failing to take proper recall measures.


In the United States, the National Highway Transportation Safety Association (NHTSA) has issued its 2007 recall report. Automobile recalls increased in 2007 by thirty percent from the previous year.  Manufacturers issued 588 recalls, affecting almost 15 million vehicles. 


Recalls have increased over the last seven years partly due to the Federal TREAD Act (Transportation Recall, Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation) passed in 2000.  The TREAD Act was enacted after congressional hearings established that recalls of defective tires could have occurred sooner if the NHTSA had obtained reports of tire problems from the manufacturer in a timely manner.  The Act arose in response to the recall of 10 million Firestone tires in 2000.  However, the Act covers only tires. 


Ford Motor Company issued the most recalls in 2007.  Daimler/Chrysler came in second for the total number of recalls.  General Motors and Toyota, both covering a large part of the auto sales market, had a decline in the number of recalls issued.


Ford felt the sting in 2007 when it recalled 3.6 million vehicles for a faulty cruise control switch that lead to fires.  Combined with recalls in past years for the same defect, this was the largest recall ever. 


Volkswagen recalled nearly a million 2007 Beetles for a faulty brake light switch.  Sales of the Beetles fell by thirty percent as well.


Recalls hurt manufacturers directly with unexpected costs and indirectly with a decrease in sales and harm to the overall brand.  However, recalls benefit consumers by identifying problems before accidents occur.  Ultimately, recalls should lower product liability claims. 


In the past, some automobile manufacturers, as the Mitsubishi scandal detailed, put corporate costs over consumer safety.  With strong federal regulation and adherence to safety requirements, hopefully, in the United States, manufacturers will bear the cost of product defects in the recall arena rather than through product liability litigation.


However, if you believe that you may have a product liability claim or if you were in an auto accident that may be related to a product defect, contact the law firm of Robert N. Katz for a free, private consultation.  

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Faulty Seatbelts and Air Bags

In Georgia there is a doctrine known as Res Ipsa Loquitur, which translated means “the thing speaks for itself.”   Some things are so manifestly the result of someone’s negligence that a jury can infer negligence on the part of the defendant.   In other words, the evidence proves the point.   For example, a scalpel left in the stomach of a surgery patient infers the negligence of the doctor.   Also, a barrel of flour falling out a second story window infers the shopkeeper’s negligence. When applied, this doctrine creates an inference of negligence that the defendant must affirmatively disprove.

 To apply this doctrine in a negligence case, the plaintiff must usually show:

  1. That harm would not have occurred without someone’s negligence;
  2. The “thing” which caused the harm was under the exclusive control of the defendant; and
  3. There is an absence of a reasonable explanation as to how the harm occurred.

Over the course of my practice, many accident victims will tell me that in addition to being hit by a negligent driver of another automobile, their own car failed to protect them in the accident.   For example, the seatbelt did not hold or the airbag did not deploy.   These clients will often question me about adding a product liability suit to the auto accident claim against the negligent driver.

 This week the Georgia Court of Appeals in Millers vs. Ford Motor Company upheld the grant of summary judgment (a motion filed by the defendant that defeats the plaintiff’s case before it ever gets to trial) to the automobile manufacturer, Ford Motor Company. In that case the plaintiffs alleged that the seatbelt and side air bag in their Lincoln Town Car were defective and contributed to their injuries when they were struck by another car. 

 The court held that the plaintiffs failed to show that the seatbelt and side air bag were defective when they left the defendant manufacturer.   The court ruled that mechanical devices sometimes get out of working order without any negligence on anyone’s part.   Also, once a car leaves the manufacturer, the manufacturer no longer has control over the car and cannot be liable for subsequent repairs or tampering with the vehicle. 

In a product liability suit, the plaintiff must show:

  1. There was a defect in the product that varied from its intended design;
  2. The defect existed when it left the manufacturer; and
  3. The defect was the cause of the plaintiff’s injuries.

This concept is called “strict liability.”    If the plaintiff fails to meet the burden of proof, the court will likely grant summary judgment, dismissing the case without a trial. 

Product liability suits require a good deal of pre-litigation investigation in order to determine if a truly defective product exists. Plaintiffs must be prepared to show the condition of the car following the purchase (all repairs, alterations etc.) and should usually rely on expert testimony to prove negligent manufacture. After the filing of suit, extensive discovery will be necessary to prove a product defect. Consultation with an attorney will best help you determine if the facts in your case “speak for themselves.”  

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