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A study conducted in Italy found several mesothelioma patients had only been exposed to asbestos during the manufacturing of dental prostheses, leading researchers to conclude that dental technicians are at an increased risk of mesothelioma.  The study included 5,000 diagnosed mesothelioma patients and took place over 14 years (from 2000-2014). The only exposure 4 of the study participants had to asbestos was as employees in a dental lab, tasked with crafting dental prostheses. In the 1960 & 1970s, asbestos was used to line dental casting rings, a container that held a dental mold for a restoration (also know as a dental prosthesis). During this process, the dental mold is heated, transferring heat to the liner, which leeched asbestos particles into the air. Breathing in of asbestos, a known carcinogen, is the primary cause of mesothelioma, a malignant cancer that typically does not show symptoms until 20 or more years after exposure to the carcinogen.

Asbestos & Mesothelioma in the News

Asbestos-related class action lawsuits have been making headlines recently, as the House of Representatives voted in favor of a bill that would draw out asbestos claims and severely limit a victim’s ability to not only recover damages, but to join the class action in the first place. The bill, H.R. 985 or the Fairness in Class Action Litigation and Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency Act of 2017 (more commonly known as FACT), aims to create very narrow classes that require all plaintiffs to have the exact same injury. Injuries from exposure to asbestos can range from malignant mesothelioma and lung cancers to other lung-related disorders. The odds of each person who has been impacted from asbestos exposure to have the same symptoms and diagnoses are rare, proving that the goal of this provision is to eliminate victims and prevent them from seeking action against corporations who manufactured or used asbestos materials. The bill also seeks to limit the ability of plaintiffs to receive compensation from multiple companies or asbestos trusts. It would require full disclosure of the funds each plaintiff has received and this information would be available on court dockets, a move which Joanne Doroshow, plaintiff’s attorney and executive director of the Center for Justice & Democracy at New York Law School, argues “would force a lot of very private information about asbestos victims and family on to the public court docket, which is basically a public website.”

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We’d like to share insightful information from an April newsletter from the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association (ITLA) regarding 5 major reasons to oppose the Protecting Access to Care Act, better known as H.R. 1215. The bill, due to be voted on at any moment by the House, has a sweet-sounding name that overrides the detrimental aftermath that will result if the policy becomes law.

ITLA’s newsletter contains information shared by the American Association for Justice (AAJ) and perfectly sums up why we as Americans should oppose the passage of a bill that will take away our civil rights.

Below are the top 5 reasons to oppose The Protecting Access to Care Act (H.R. 1215):

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The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) are on a crusade to make private health care accreditation data available to the public, believing that many major issues related to patient safety are being overlooked. CMS has taken on similar endeavors in the past and were successful – they were responsible for now public nursing home inspection reports.

Currently 9 out of 10 hospitals in the United States are surveyed by private accreditors and not the government, meaning most institutions receiving tax dollars are able to avoid making details of these reports public record. Transparency in health care has become a hot topic as reports in recent months have outed preventable medical errors as the 3rd leading cause of death in this country.

Accreditation Doesn’t Necessarily Indicate Quality

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After surviving a stroke, Bill Owens completed inpatient rehabilitation and was released with instructions to begin physical therapy at his home. After determining that in-home therapy would not be effective enough for Mr. Owens, he was referred to Carl Erskine Rehabilitation Center in Anderson, Indiana. The rehab facility is owned and operated by St. Vincent Regional Hospital.

Mr. Owens, a documented fall risk, relied on a walker and notified his physical therapist that he had recently fallen twice. The therapist noted that Mr. Owens seemed weaker and shakier as a result of his falls. The next day, Mr. Owens was asked to walk unassisted from the waiting room to the therapy room at rehab. While attempting to walk, Mr. Owens fell and hit his head, striking the ground with such force that he suffered a subdural hematoma, a form of traumatic brain injury that is life threatening if not immediately and appropriately treated.

A Life Forever Changed

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The new head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Scott Pruitt, was given the chance to ban chlorpyrifos use on America’s food crops and chose to turn a blind eye to the proven harmful effects insecticides can have on our food sources and ultimately our children.

What is Chlorpyrifos?

The insecticide is a chemical from the same family as sarin gas (yes, the same gas used to kill and injure hundreds recently in Syria) and has been proven by the EPA itself to cause brain and central nervous system damage in infants and children.  In even small doses, chlorpyrifos can cause lowered IQs and problems with language, emotion, memory and behavior.  The chemical is so potent that personal protective equipment similar to that worn by healthcare workers during the Ebola epidemic must be worn when handling it and administering it on crops. It is also mandated by the EPA that an area sprayed with chlorpyrifos be evacuated for at least 24 hours after treatment. In light of studies showing that chlorpyrifos caused direct harm to developing brains & nervous systems, the EPA banned its use in products used for residential purposes in 2001.

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The Food & Drug Administration has issued a Class I recall for LIFEPAK 1000 defribillators, distributed by Physio-Control Inc., one of the nation’s largest suppliers of defibrillators to hospitals, nursing homes, and first responders. According to Physio-Control’s website, the LIFEPAK 1000 is a portable Automated External Defibrillator (AED) designed for use by first responders on adults, children and even infants. The AED retails anywhere from $1400-$3100. AEDs are available to the public, but only with a prescription from a physician. It is also strongly advised that they only be operated by persons with formal training in CPR and AED usage.

Physio-Control voluntarily recalled the LIFEPAK 1000 after reports that the device experienced sudden losses of power. Although the devices can be restarted, every second counts in a cardiac emergency.

Recall Details, obtained directly from FDA.gov:

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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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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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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