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As we await voting from the House on H.R. 1215, the bill that would limit your right to non-economic damages in excess of $250,000 for a medical malpractice lawsuit, we are obviously not thrilled to report that H.R. 985, another bill that also restricts civil rights, has been approved by the House.

H.R. 985, otherwise known as the Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act of 2017, attempts to severely limit the ability to file a class action lawsuit against corporations that have harmed or discriminated against Americans. Class action lawsuits are those that involve multiple plaintiffs with similar complaints against the same institution. An endless list of well-known class action lawsuits exist, many of which have changed the course of American history. For example, Brown v. Board of Ed., Roe v. Wade, Enron, and PG&E (famous for being the largest direct class action lawsuit in history and the inspiration for the film ‘Erin Brockovich’).

The bill has caused a stir among attorneys, past victims of corporate greed and negligence, and civil rights groups and advocates. It angered the American Bar Association enough to come out and state that this legislation requires a “nearly insurmountable burden for people who have suffered a personal injury or economic loss at the hands of large institutions with vast resources, effectively barring them from bringing class actions.”

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The Food & Drug Administration has issued the most severe type of recall, class I, for the Halo One Thin-walled Guiding Sheath by Bard Peripheral Vascular Inc. The sheath acts as a placement agent and guide for vascular corrective or diagnostic devices that are inserted through an incision in a patient’s leg. The recall states that the tip may separate from the device and that the sheath itself could kink and rip from the actual device when removed from the patient. Potential complications include bleeding, arterial and venous perforation, and even death.

Recalled product information from FDA.gov:

  • Product codes HAL545, HAL590, or HAL510F
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Late last year, stories began flooding the news about Samsung’s Galaxy Note7 phone, a device that bears more resemblance to a small tablet than a smartphone. Released just last August, by October so many complaints of spontaneously exploding phones had been thrown at the company that they decided to stop all sales of the Galaxy Note7 until they could determine the cause of the fires. In the same press release, Samsung implored all users to immediately turn off their phone and send back for either a refund or for an entirely different model. What many Galaxy Note7 users likely didn’t notice was that buried at the bottom of the phone’s box was a small 16 page booklet containing a paragraph stating that users could not sue Samsung. Instead, they were agreeing to binding arbitration as a means to settle any claim of injury or death arising from use of their product.

Teen Among Many Injured By Galaxy Note7

In Illinois, Michael Taylor, 19, went to sleep with his Samsung Galaxy Note7 on the charger next to his bedside. He woke up hours later to excruciating pain in his leg and to his smartphone on fire. The phone had exploded while charging, causing severe burns to the teen’s leg. When he consulted with an attorney in an attempt to sue Samsung for his injuries, it was discovered that hidden deep in a booklet seldom read by users, Taylor had unknowingly agreed to arbitration. Without knowing it, Taylor had waived his right to a jury trial, agreed to use an arbitrator chosen by Samsung to settle his dispute, and to pay Samsung’s legal fees if the arbitrator determined Samsung was not at fault. While that same part of the booklet also states that consumers can opt out within 30 days of purchase, it is hardly likely that most consumers would read a 16 page booklet of terms and conditions. Users assume that the products they purchase are safe and that they are protected by law should an injury occur from its use.  Instead of taking true ownership for the burns suffered by Mr. Taylor, Samsung hid behind the agreement they placed in the product packaging, stating that he agreed to abide by their arbitration process to settle any grievances.

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Last week, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner gave his annual budget address to the state. In the lengthy speech, Governor Rauner spent most of the time addressing the need for job creation in the state and the reasons for businesses leaving. Spending only one sentence of his entire address on workers’ compensation, Rauner stated that high workers’ comp insurance costs are causing higher property taxes and businesses to leave Illinois. What Rauner didn’t say should speak louder than the few words he actually expressed. There’s one type of business that’s flocking to do business in Illinois. Our state has the most workers’ comp insurers of any state in the country. 332 insurers, to be exact.

Illinois a Favorable Environment for Insurers

In Illinois, profits for workers’ comp insurers have been on the rise since 2010. Since 2011, however, the dollar amount they’ve paid out for claims has decreased while their premiums have steadily gone up. So where is all the extra money going? It’s probably not a shock to hear that insurers are pocketing the extra income instead of passing on the savings to businesses in the form of lower premiums. Insurers are also empowered by state legislation that allows them to deny claims and cut back on available benefits.  However, businesses see workers’ comp as a necessary evil. By providing workers’ comp insurance, they are essentially free of responsibility for injuries sustained on the job. Governor Rauner hopes that by cutting back on workers’ comp premiums and payouts, companies will see Illinois as a favorable place to do business and will set up shop in the state.

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As any parent knows, teething feels like a phase that might never end. The constant irritability and tears have led many parents to turn to what feels like a safe, natural solution: homeopathic teething tablets. Amazon, CVS, Target, Walgreens and most major retailers used to carry at least one brand of the tablets, which claim to give parents and babies relief from the agony of teething. The Food & Drug Administration recently carried out their own laboratory studies on the tablets and found that many had high levels of belladonna, levels far surpassing what the label described. According to the FDA’s report, belladonna is a toxic substance that affects the central nervous system with inconsistent results that puts infants and children at unnecessary risk.

FDA Not as Strict on Homeopathic Medication Regulation 

It’s important to know that the FDA does have a say over homeopathic medications. The labeling, distribution, and sale of homeopathic medications is largely up to the manufacturer, distributor, and retailer and although the FDA has the ability to step in and oversee the labeling of these products, it rarely has done so. While it is unclear why the FDA finally decided to intervene, they made a strong point by urging all parents to avoid teething tablets. So strong that the products have become relatively hard to find in recent weeks. It is unclear as to whether or not news of 10 deaths and 400 teething-tablet reactions reported to the FDA were before or after the message the Administration released in late January.

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It has become a frequent headline in newspapers and on t.v. news: Americans found slumped over the steering wheel or found at home, dead from an opioid overdose. In August, 174 people overdosed on heroin over 6 days in Cincinnati. In those cases, most had used heroin laced with carfentanil, a fentanyl derivative that is used for tranquilizing large animals, such as those kept at a zoo. So how do regulated prescription drugs such as these end up in the hands of those who can abuse them?

This past December, the CDC released data that showed opioid addiction is here to stay in the United States. In 2015, 52,000 people died from an opioid overdose and more than half of these tragic deaths were caused by a legally prescribed or illegally obtained prescription. With all the regulations in place for prescription drugs in the U.S., one has to assume that there is a failure somewhere in the distribution system. How else could it be possible that 33,091, or 63%, of all opioid deaths were due to prescribed medicines?

A Trickle Down Effect

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In January, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) issued a Class I Recall for Normal Saline Flush syringes made by Nurse Assist Inc. The syringes have shown a direct link to an antibiotic-resistant bacterial infection known as Burkholderia Cepacia (B. Cepacia). According to the Centers for Disease Control, B. Cepacia is not threatening when otherwise healthy patients are infected. For those patients with compromised immune systems, the infection can develop into a severe respiratory illness, making it particularly dangerous for those who have lung diseases such as cystic fibrosis. The infection arises from soil and water exposed to B. Cepacia and spreads through person-to-person contact, making it hard to contain in healthcare environments such as hospitals and nursing homes.

Saline flush syringes are used after medication is delivered through an IV in order to keep the entry point sterile and prevent infection. The introduction of an infection such as B. Cepacia can have serious consequences.

Recall Specifics

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The Food & Drug Administration has recently issued a Class I recall for Standard Offset Cup Impactors with POM-C Handle, a device used during hip replacement surgeries and manufactured by Greatbatch Medical. These devices, used in hip replacement operations in the United States between July 30, 2004 and December 22, 2015, were found to have non-sterile parts, which can lead to serious infection and even death.  Greatbatch reported to the FDA that there were nearly 3,000 patients who had a hip replacement using one of their cup impactor devices.  To view the model numbers that are listed under the FDA’s recall notice, please click here.

How to Know If You Have a Case

As anyone who has experienced a major surgery knows, you hope for the best possible outcome and to wake up better off than when you entered the operating room. If a medical product or device fails to meet basic safety standards in a surgical environment, the impact can be life threatening.

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Ikea, the Swedish home retail giant, has agreed to pay $50 million to 3 families whose children were killed after being crushed by toppled dressers. To these families, money will never be able to replace what they have lost, but the settlement is expected to send a strong message to legislators and furniture manufacturers that parents are demanding better quality, safer furniture.

An Unsettling Statistic

According to the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission, a child dies once every 2 weeks from falling furniture or televisions. While there is no federal law requiring specific safety measures be followed in furniture production, there are voluntary national safety standards that manufacturers should follow. According to the lawsuit filed by the victims’ families, Ikea consistently refused to meet those standards and their negligence directly resulted in the death of 3 children, each 2 years old.

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The holiday season is right around the corner. Many of us will be getting together with family and enjoying food and various activities. In my family, the kids will be running around, the adult men will be watching sports while the adult ladies spend time socializing. Though this time of the year brings great joy, there is always the risk of injury and some injuries are specific to this time of the year. This post will hit on this concept and will warn you of these risks.

Common Holiday Injuries

According to Rebound Orthopedics and Neurosurgery, there are a number of injuries incurred while decorating for the holidays. Decoration injuries typically involve falls, lacerations and back strains. In fact, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reports that there were more than 15,000 reported injuries sustained while decorating during November and December of 2013.