Monday, October 08, 2007

Interview on Hayes Sammons Hearing

KURV 710AM in the Rio Grande Valley interviewed Lawsquawker's own Linda Laurent Thomas last week regarding this week's hearing to move forward with trial on our Hayes-Sammons lawsuit in Mission, Texas. Listen to the interview.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Pick Your "Friends" Carefully

As Texans know, the ability to sue a negligent doctor or hospital is virtually impossible now that the tort reformers (read: insurance executives) got their $250K caps on non-economic damages (i.e., you can sue if you make a lot of money like an investment banker, but if you are a housewife, file clerk or bookkeeper, your damages are negligible).

Today, the
Houston Chronicle exposed one of Texans for Lawsuit Reform's spokesmen Dr. Forney Fleming who advocated against med mal lawsuits. He failed to mention that he was reprimanded and fined by the Texas Medical Board and still has complaints pending:

He was eager to bash plaintiffs' lawyers, particularly those who targeted doctors. So TLR, a business group that has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars bashing plaintiffs' lawyers and winning restrictions on judgments against physicians and other defendants, signed him up as a volunteer speaker.

Fleming, however, left out some details of his professional life, including his reprimand and $7,500 fine by the Texas Medical Board in 2004 for misdiagnosing what turned out to be bone cancer in a 16-year-old girl's leg. The leg later was amputated. The board also accused Fleming of providing substandard care to six other patients, including an 81-year-old woman with a fractured hip. That formal complaint was still pending when he let his medical license lapse and retired last December. And, according to state records, Fleming was sued or threatened with suits for malpractice three times. All were settled out of court or resolved through mediation for undisclosed terms.

None of his professional problems was mentioned on the TLR Web site, but his profile was removed last week, within an hour after I informed a TLR spokeswoman about them.

Here is a link to his "removed" TLR profile by way of Burnt Orange Report and Texas Watch: Dr. Forney Fleming, Texans for Lawsuit Reform Spokesman

Friday, September 14, 2007

True Value of a Texas Worker

Well, Texas has recently decided that plant owners will be shielded from liability by Worker's Compensation Laws if a contractor gets injured.

In Entergy Gulf States Inc. v. John Summers, the Texas Supreme Court held that "a premises owner that "undertakes to procure" work falls within the the Labor Code's definition of a general contractor, for purposes of qualifying for the exclusive-remedy defense."

This case marks a sweeping change in the ability of an injured worker to get any meaningful protection from a negligent landowner and ultimately discourages plant owners from making safety changes to reduce injuries in the first place. If there is a silver lining to the 2005 BP explosion in Texas City, it is the fact that it occurred before this ruling came out.

A sad day for Texans, but not surprising according to John Eddie Williams, a prominent Texas personal injury lawyer who was quoted in the Houston Chronicle's story today: "The court ruling followed several unsuccessful attempts in recent years by the business community to convince the Legislature to address the same issue."

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Slow Death, Slower Justice

The Texas Observer has a detailed story on our Mission lawsuit and the struggles of our clients to obtain justice against the Goliaths of the chemical industry. The story paints a good picture of the conditions at the time the plant was in full swing:
The plant exhaled pesticide dust like a vacuum cleaner with a full bag. The fan sucked poisonous dust and fumes from the factory, sending them into the neighborhood. Families left their windows open most of the year because they didn’t have air conditioners. Strong Gulf winds moved the dust around so much that residents said they could taste it. The poison blew off of trucks, open-top kettles, and piles of residue left outside, which neighborhood kids used like a community sandbox, according to former workers, locals and court records. Rainbow colored storm water frequently flooded unpaved streets, at times muddying dirt kitchen floors.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Texas Supreme Court Lifts Stay in Mission, TX case

The Texas Supreme Court lifted its stay on our Mission, Texas case last Friday. The mandamus had been pending for two years. Our clients provided some video commentary for KRGV-Channel 5 here.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

A Victory for Safety

Common sense finally won last week when President Bush's pick to head the Consumer Product Safety Commission, Michael Baroody, withdrew his nomination. As you recall, Mr. Baroody was Executive Vice President at the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) - a K Street lobbying behemoth devoted to helping big manufacturers evade accountability for their wrongdoing.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Maybe I should just start my own farm and ranch

Just a follow up to yesterday's post on food safety, the FDA is now going to look at imported human food and potential for contamination. It's about time...frankly it's a national security issue...all our inexpensive products today come here through our seaports, airports and border crossings. Maybe we should eat things that don't travel half way around the world (just think of the savings in gasoline to haul stuff over here)? Just a thought. CNN has the full story.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Reading, I Mean Testing, the Tea Leaves

So in keeping with the consumer safety topic, here's something of concern...the contaminated wheat gluten in pet food was just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to tainted or downright dangerous food produces from China. I'm almost shocked, but sadly, I'm not surprised...this from a former FDA official...the AP has the full story:

Exporting countries are supposed to help. But governments such as China, where tainted food scandals are common, can have a stunning lack of oversight, said William Hubbard, a top FDA official for 14 years who now advocates for stiffer food safety regulations. He recounted how one supplier drove a truck over tea leaves to dry them with exhaust, which leached lead into the leaves.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Safety for Your Family or Corporations?

So, I thought the Consumer Products Safety Commission was supposed to protect you and me and our families (and our pets) from dangerous, unsafe products. Now, an industry lobbyist has been tapped to run the Commission. I'm thinking of taking the Commission's link off our blog if the Baroody's nomination is approved. Not that people can't have a change of heart and switch sides, but considering his track record, you can't blame me for being concerned.

The Stop Baroody campaign is reprinted below:

President Bush has nominated Michael Baroody - one of Corporate America's leading anti-consumer henchmen - to head the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) - our top government agency protecting millions of Americans from injury and death from unsafe products.

For the past 13 years, Michael Baroody has served as Executive Vice President at the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) - a K Street lobbying behemoth devoted to helping big manufacturers evade accountability for their wrongdoing.
The CPSC protects American consumers from deadly or harmful products - ranging from flammable children's pajamas to collapsing cribs. Now, a leader in the fight against the CPSC has been nominated by President Bush to head this important agency.

During his tenure at NAM, Michael Baroody:

Fought to allow a higher level of arsenic in drinking water:
NAM claimed that negligent manufacturers would feel a pinch in their profits if forced to prevent their waste products from poisoning local communities. Arsenic is often found downstream from negligent chemical producers and users that knowingly try to bypass EPA Regulations - thus endangering all communities downstream. A deadly poison, even in the smallest amounts, it causes shock, vascular disease and a plethora of cancers in the body.

Opposed attempts to ban tobacco billboards near schools: NAM claimed federal agencies were "silencing commercial speech without authority." Since 1998, cigarette companies have spent more than $40 million a day to market their deadly product.

Lobbied to eliminate the rights of Americans exposed to asbestos to hold the responsible corporations accountable: As head of the front group "Asbestos Alliance," Baroody fought to cut off victims' access to our courts, the only place negligent corporations could be held accountable for knowingly exposing victims to this deadly material. NAM described victims' efforts to hold the accountable those corporations that knowingly exposed them to asbestos as "an anchor weighing down the business community." Even though the risks were discovered in 1940 by the corporate pushers of asbestos, 27.5 million workers have been exposed to asbestos on the job and hundreds of thousands of workers and their family members have suffered and died from asbestos-related diseases. In 2003 alone, nearly 10,000 people in the United States died from asbestos-related diseases.

Lobbied to keep corporate documents regarding unsafe products from the public: Over the years, the release of secret corporate documents in court cases have informed the public of corporate negligence and dangerous products. Secrecy agreements allow negligent corporations to hide this information from the public, such as the Ford Pinto's recklessly placed gas tank or even BP's easily preventable refinery explosion which killed 15 workers.

Lobbied to immunize negligent corporations from responsibility for their actions: NAM lobbied for legislation that would have provided immunity to manufacturers, no matter how deadly their negligence. Corporations that knowingly place dangerous or deadly products on the market such as unsafe baby cribs that kill small children or kids' pajamas that are highly flammable would not be held accountable if Baroody and NAM get their way.

Pushed to limit fines for corporate wrongdoing that placed American consumers in direct danger: NAM testified that the CPSC "should be prevented from inflicting economic harm," thus ensuring an even lower standard of accountability for corporations producing and marketing dangerous or deadly products, regardless of the harm they cause to innocent Americans.

Worked to eliminate rules that protect and keep safe Americans in the workplace: NAM went so far as to sue the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to stop enforcement of rules regarding worker safety. NAM lobbied to keep manufacturers from having to publicly disclose how much lead they were producing.

NAM has consistently lobbied on behalf of corporations more intent on protecting their bottom lines than the public safety. Worked to immunize corporate CEOs from criminal liability for marketing deadly products to the public, maintaining such actions might slow "productivity."As an example, knowingly marketing clearly defective bulletproof vests - leading to deaths of soldiers, police and elected officials - would not be a criminal act.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Tear Down that Warehouse, Mr. EPA!

Well, it's finally happening. The contaminated Hayes Sammons Warehouse located on the EPA Helena Chemicals Superfund Site is coming down. The residents of Mission, Texas have worked very hard to pull down the warehouse, an ugly reminder of the source of their contaminated properties and bodies. Thomas & Wan has the full story here.

Brain Damage from Hydrogen Sulfide Exposure

The family of Jesus Deleon is suing Motiva Enterprises for negligence and violations of OSHA standards which left their primary bread winner brain damaged. Mr. Deleon was working in an industrial tank at Motiva Enterprises when toxic hydrogen sulfide gas was carelessly allowed into the tank. All of his co-workers were lucky enough to climb out in time, but Mr. Deleon did not share the same fate. He was overcome with fumes and now has permanent brain damage. Thomas & Wan is humbled to represent Mr. Deleon and his family against a negligent and careless company. The Southeast Texas reporter has more.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Zelnorm--FDA says Risks Outweigh Benefits

Well, the FDA is stepping up to the plate and putting scrutiny of drug companies who spend more on advertisements than research. Novartis, the maker of Zelnorm, a drug prescribed for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) reluctantly took Zelnorm off the market on Friday, March 30th.

Zelnorm was linked to a statistically significant number of heart attacks, strokes and angina pain. In fact, Novartis even admits that it knew about increased angina pain back in 2002, but the company did not feel it was statistically significant. This recent review of the same data showed differently.

This tidbit is very interesting..."In a 2003 presentation, Thomas Ebeling, chief executive of Novartis's drug division, said that Zelnorm's sales in the United States were closely tied to consumer advertising. 'The weeks we go off the air, the growth flattens. When we restart, you see the growth accelerate again,' Mr. Ebeling said." NYT has the full story.

If you take Zelnorm, contact your doctor immediately for help in getting on a new and safer drug. If you take Zelnorm and suffered a heart attack, stroke or angina pain, contact us to protect your legal rights.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Throwing Out Good Science in the Name of Profits

Bringing a lawsuit against a corporation for a defective product or toxic chemical has always been difficult--at the very least, a consumer and her lawyers are David against the Goliath corporation.

In order to prove a product caused an injury requires many experts trained in the relevant scientific fields. Yet, it's not good enough just to have the number one expert in a field--you've got to have other experts, research, studies and the smoking gun documents from the corporation you are suing (assuming no shredding was done) to prove your case. In 1993, the Supreme Court ruled that courts, i.e. judges, would be the gatekeepers of determing what is science and what is not. This was the seminal Daubert v. Merrell Dow case. Since then, some courts have taken Daubert, and made the rules even more stringent--all to the detriment of consumers with valid cases.

Barry Yeoman of The Nation has a well-written piece on the real world effects that Daubert and its progeny have had on hurting consumers and helping corporations avoid responsibility for their bad acts.

This quote sums it up nicely:
Until significant changes take place, say Daubert critics, the system will continue to harm more than scientists' reputations--it will also harm ill and injured Americans. "We do need tools to make sure that bad science doesn't get to court," says David Michaels, a George Washington University epidemiologist who served as an assistant energy secretary during the Clinton Administration. "But Daubert is an imprecise tool, and its application has resulted in miscarriages of justice."

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Drug Commercial? Change the channel!

This is the reason why you should change the channel when commercials come on…

Study: TV Ads Overstate Benefits of Medication
by Patricia Neighmond

Morning Edition, January 30, 2007 · The amount of money drug companies spend on TV ads has doubled in recent years. Studies show they work: Consumers go to their doctor with a suggestion for a certain prescription drug they saw advertised on TV. Now a study in the Annals of Family Medicine raises questions about the message the ads promote.
You're most likely to see drug ads during prime time, especially around the news. Researchers analyzed 38 ads aimed at people with conditions like hypertension, herpes, high cholesterol, depression, arthritis and allergies.

The drug industry says the ads arm consumers with information. Researchers found that the information was technically accurate, but the tone was misleading.
"Typically, what we would see with these ads is that before taking a particular prescription drug, the character's life is out of control and the loss of control extended beyond the impact of their health condition," says UCLA psychologist Dominick Frosch, who headed the study.
For example, herpes patients were portrayed as being incapacitated for days. Insomniacs were utterly out of synch on the job. Depressed patients were friendless and boring at parties.
"When the character is then shown taking the drug, he then magically regains complete control of his life," Frosch notes.

None of the ads mentioned lifestyle changes that could also help treat the condition. That's not surprising, given that the ads are just another form of mass marketing.
But prescription medicines are not soap.

Dr. David Kessler, dean of the school of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, headed the FDA for seven years, under the first President Bush and then President Clinton. He opposed TV advertising for drugs.

"We tend to forget pharmaceuticals are powerful agents, not just any commodity," he says. "Advertising them based on their emotional appeal is something that has great risks."
After Kessler left the FDA, rules were relaxed and TV ads for drugs were permitted. That was a mistake, Kessler says.

He insists the FDA should be responsible for insuring overall accuracy, both in tone and content. And he says the agency should ask this question:

"Does the ad in the end convey a fairly balanced view of what this drug is going to do — not some wish list?"Kessler says a complete ban on TV ads for prescription drugs is unlikely, now that ads has been approved. But he says regulation can — and should — be tightened

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Zicam Nose Sprays

Happy new's been a long time since we've posted, but we're back from weddings, honeymoons, etc.

In light of the current cold and flu season, please reconsider what you take as a nasal decongestant. Zicam, a nasal spray/swab, is heavily marketed in drug stores. It contains zinc which has been known for years to cause the permanent loss of your sense of smell, aka anosmia. It's a terrible thing to have, especially since you lose your sense of taste as well. And, it can be dangerous (imagine not being able to smell the gas leak in your house). Or, detrimental to your career (people in the restaurant business).

Funny, the parent company of Zicam reported that sales will be down due to the slow start to the cold and flu season...strange that there are companies rooting for you to get sick.

Here's more about multi-million dollar lawsuit settlements against Zicam. Here's a Consumer Reports article from this month re safety and efficacy of Zicam. Find out more about Zicam and anosmia and your legal rights.