3 Workers Killed in Raleigh Scaffolding Collapse

March 26, 2015,

3543576755_56ddb921a8_o.jpgA scaffolding accident in the Charter Square building in Raleigh, North Carolina recently killed three construction workers and serious injured one other. Work accident attorneys at Pintas & Mullins have decades of experience handling these types of cases, and are here to help injured workers receive maximum damages.

The accident in Raleigh occurred when workers were dismantling part of a mast climber system in the Charter Square building on Fayetteville Street. Mast climbers are elevator-like platforms that allow workers to perform their duties on the facades of buildings at a comfortable angle. Mast climbers must be carefully designed and implemented; if it is incorrectly secured to the building or improperly loaded with materials the system can fail.

One of the non-injured workers was performing duties under the mast climber when he heard a popping sound and his coworkers shouting for others to run away. Seconds later, he heard a loud crash as the system collapsed, according to news reports. The wreckage landed on the portable restrooms, killing one man inside.

The work being done on the 243,000-square-foot Charter Square building is contracted by Choate Construction, which was hired by Dominion Realty Partners. The company responsible for the mast climber system was a subcontractor, however, called Associated Scaffolding. Workers for that company were in the process of dismantling the mast climbers when the accident occurred. Two workers fatally injured were employed by Janna Wall Inc, a company specializing in thin glass or metal walls.

It is not yet known what caused the collapse, though officials with the state's Occupational Safety and Health Division (OSHA) took control of the construction site to conduct an investigation. The investigation could take between three to six months. The only known facts are that a support structure for the mast climber system failed near the building's fifth floor, falling into the performing arts center parking lot on Lenoir Street.

Mast climbers have been used since the early 1980s for work on external walls, commonly to install windows and other glasswork. Although accidents are rare, when they do occur they cause devastating injuries and deaths. In the two decades between 1990 and 2010, at least 18 fatalities have occurred in mast climber accidents.

The system in Raleigh involved a wide platform that was bolted to the building by a central structure. According to North Carolina law, a qualified inspector must examine mast climber systems on a daily basis. These inspections are typically conducted by equipment owners rather than state or federal officials.

OSHA investigators will try to determine whether a qualified person designed the mast climber system, if weight-load limits were being followed, and whether a competent employee inspected it daily. Choate Construction, the contracting company at the lead of this project, works on job site across the Southeast and is Dominion Realty Partners' lead contractor.

Work Zone Fatalities

Another Southern state, Texas, recently made national news for an unfortunate headline. In 2014 Texas had far and away the most work zone crash fatalities of any state. More than 145 people died in work zone automobile crashes last year, a 20% increase from the year before.

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Listeria Deaths Traced to Ice Cream

March 19, 2015,

140830811_c8d99c866c_b.jpgA Listeria outbreak that has led to three deaths is being traced to ice creams produced at the Blue Bell Creamery in Texas. The deaths occurred at a hospital in Wichita, Kansas, where contaminated Blue Bell Creamery ice cream was served to patients. Food injury lawyers at Pintas & Mullins detail this outbreak.

The FDA released a Safety Alert on March 13, 2015, detailing all the information it had on the outbreak. In the Alert, the agency noted that four rare strains of Listeria were found in three Blue Bell Creamery products: the Chocolate Chip Country Cookie Sandwich, single-serving Scoops ice cream, and the Great Divide Bar.

All patients exposed to Listeria at the hospital were served pre-packaged, single-serving products and milkshakes made from these Blue Bell products. All those affected are adults. Blue Bell has removed the affected products from the market and shut down the production line where the contamination occurred.

Any of these Blue Bell products purchased before the recall may be contaminated with Listeria, however. Listeria is among the most dangerous foodborne pathogens and can be fatal, particularly in certain vulnerable groups. High-risk groups include pregnant women, the elderly, small children, and anyone with a weakened immune system.

Symptoms of Listeria poisoning include: fever, muscle aches, diarrhea, chills, and gastrointestinal issues. These symptoms can appear a few days to a few weeks after consuming the contaminated food.

Blue Bell Creameries has removed the following products from market:

• 12 pack No Sugar Added Mooo Bars
• 6 pack Cotton Candy Bars
• 6 pack Sour Pop Green Apple Bars
• Almond Bars
• Chocolate Chip Country Cookie
• Cotton Candy Bar
• Great Divide Bar
• Scoops
• Sour Pop Green Apple Bar
• Vanilla Stick Slices

It is important that anyone who has purchased these products discard them immediately.

Listeria Lawsuits

Because Listeria is so dangerous, lawsuits over food contaminations are not uncommon. By far the deadliest Listeria outbreak occurred in 2011, when at least 33 people died from eating cantaloupe contaminated is Listeria. The Colorado farm responsible for the outbreak, Jensen Farms, was shut down and the owners pled guilty to introducing adulterated food into interstate commerce. Each of the owners was fined $150,000 and 100 hours of community service in restitution. Investigators determined that the cantaloupes were contaminated by dirty water on the floor of Jensen Farms' packing house and on old equipment.

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Veterans without Legal Protection Forced into Financial Frauds, Schemes

March 17, 2015,

medal-of-honor-ssg-salvatore-giunta-united-states-army.jpgAmerican military service members face a multitude of hurdles when they return home from duty: PTSD, acclimation back to daily life, familial issues, and finding adequate work, to name just a few. Lesser known are the financial struggles, often ending in illegal repossessions and seizures of assets. The injury attorneys at Pintas & Mullins detail how our laws and court systems are failing to protect our veterans from financial fraud.

This story came to our attention through an expose in the New York Times, which focused on the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) and how it is being violated by Corporate America. Since the Civil War, Congress has given service members various protections from repossessions and foreclosures while on active duty. In recent years the American financial industry has been illegally resisted these special protections, leaving troops and their families vulnerable to asset seizures and financial schemes.

Specifically, Corporate America - including big banks that promote the "assistance" they give to veterans - is forcing veterans into mandatory arbitration when they complain of illegal seizing. Mandatory arbitration rules are very common in financial agreements with banks and credit card companies, but service members, under the SCRA, are supposed to be protected from these private agreements.

What is Mandatory Arbitration?

Mandatory arbitration is a system of resolving legal disputes outside courtrooms. Arbitration occurs before a private lawyer (or 'arbiter') instead of judges, and arbiters are often chosen by the banks and companies. The arbiter's decisions are never made public and are always is final. Consumers enter into these agreements when they sign contracts for services, before any dispute or disagreement occurs.

Tens of millions of Americans are currently signed into mandatory arbitration agreements whether they know it or not. It is most common with credit card companies, investment advisers, banks and lenders. As mentioned, service members are supposed to have special protections from these contracts, but companies like JPMorgan Chase and the USAA are finding ways around it.

Arbitration is designed in the interest of the company, most notably because they prevent class-action lawsuits, which allow consumers harmed in similar ways to band together to file a claim. Instead, consumers have to go up against the company one by one, which few people can afford. So instead of filing broad legal challenges against illegal or unethical practices, companies are able to erase the issues entirely.

Real Harm to Real Veterans

This is severely affecting American veterans and their families. Charles Beard, an Army National Guard sergeant, for example, had his car repossessed while he was on duty in Iraq. Men came to his home in California and threatened to put his wife in jail unless she gave them the keys to their car; despite federal laws that require court orders before repossessing the vehicles of active troops.

When he returned home, Sergeant Beard attempted to take the issue to court, but his suit against the auto lender was thrown out because of the mandatory arbitration clause in his contract. This type of forced arbitration directly violates federal protection laws. It took Sergeant Bard four years to get an arbiter to rule on his case, a not-uncommon time frame for arbitration.

Any actions to stop these violations are being actively lobbied against, however. In 2013 a bill supported by both Democrats and Republicans was introduced that would allow service member to opt out of arbitration and file a lawsuit. The bill was opposed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Wall Street's lobbying group, the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (Sifma). The bill never made it to the floor.

The financial industry lobbied against the bill because it fears that exempting service members from arbitration would make it easier for others to gain exemption. The thinking goes, if they admit that mandatory arbitration is bad for the military, than the public would assume it was bad for them as well and challenge the entire system.

Sifma represents many financial companies that publically applaud themselves for their hiring of veterans, including the USAA, which almost entirely serves troops and their families. Sifma and other corporations claim that arbitration is less costly and more efficient than lawsuits, which they contend makes their services more affordable to consumers. There is little data to prove this, and much flat-out denying this causation.

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Mesh Injury Victim Wins $5.7 Million Jury Award

March 16, 2015,

A woman injured by Johnson & Johnson's pelvic mesh product was just awarded $5.7 million by a California jury. Mesh lawyers at Pintas & Mullins applaud the jury for its decision and explain how this case could impact others like it throughout the country.

deadly-listeria-food-poisoning-who-are-at-risk.jpg The plaintiff in this case, Coleen Perry, sued the Johnson & Johnson unit that makes mesh products, Ethicon, over the debilitating pain caused by the product. Ethicon manufactures the TVT Abbrevo mesh product and the TVT-O transvaginal sling, which are subject to tens of thousands of lawsuits.

These mesh products are surgically placed in women to treat stress urinary incontinence (SUI) and pelvic organ prolapse (POP). Unfortunately, these products were never studied for their long-term effects in humans, causing a wide range of serious, permanent, and even fatal injuries.

Perry's was the first trial over the TVT Abbrevo mesh, although many other mesh lawsuits have been successful in court. More than 70,000 women injured by various mesh products have filed lawsuits against the companies who made them, already winning millions for their horrendous injuries.

The California jury in Perry's case found Ethicon liable for the TVT Abbrevo's faulty design and for failing to warn patients and doctors about the risks. Of the $5.7 million awarded to Perry, $5 million was ordered as punitive damages, to punish Ethicon for its illegal, dangerous, and unethical behavior. The jurors stated that Ethicon's conduct was malicious and should be punished accordingly.

This is the fourth win against Ethicon over its mesh products; about 36,000 lawsuits are currently pending against the company.

Pain, Erosion, and Permanent Damage

Perry's experience with the mesh mirrors many others. Almost immediately after being implanted with the mesh in 2011, Perry started feeling a pulling-type pain in the abdominal and pelvic area. The mesh was eroding inside her, causing immense pain that doctors expect to last for the rest of her life.

Other injuries experienced by women implanted with mesh devices include: infections, repeated surgeries, organ perforation, erosion, uncontrolled bleeding, painful or impossible intercourse, and recurrence of SUI or POP.

In response to these catastrophic injuries and lawsuits, the FDA recently proposed to reclassify mesh products as "high risk devices." If this proposal is finalized, it would require all seven mesh manufacturers to provide clinical data to prove the products are safe and effective. This would only apply to products being used to treat transvaginal POP.

Over the last six years the FDA has issued repeated actions and statements over mesh products. The first was released in 2008, regarding serious complications associated with surgical mesh products. Several actions were taken in 2011 and the latest occurred in 2012, when the FDA ordered mesh companies to conduct studies that measured specific safety concerns. More information on these FDA actions can be found here, on the agency's website.

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Helmet Add-Ons Fail to Prevent Concussions

March 10, 2015,

mini-seahawk.jpgAs contentious as the recent NFL head injury lawsuit may be, it can be credited for bringing the immense dangers of contact football to public attention. Football associations across the country, from professional to peewee, have gone to great lengths to study and ultimately prevent brain trauma and other head injuries. Traumatic brain injury lawyers at Pintas & Mullins take a look at some of the most recent developments.

One study conducted by sports neurology experts found that helmet add-ons, such as liners, external pads, or friction reducing treatments, were unlikely to reduce concussion risks. Although lab tests with four of these products did reduce linear accelerations in impacts, the effect on angular accelerations - which result in concussions - was much less significant.

Angular acceleration is believed to be the major factor involved in concussion. In this study, researchers added four products to standard football helmets for study:

• Shockstrip external pads

• Helmet Glide treatment to reduce friction

• Guardian Cap external padding system

• UnEqual Technologies energy-dispersive liner

The helmets were then dropped from five different heights, measuring the linear and angular acceleration. The study found these products did very little to effectively reduce the risk of concussion, and, at present there is no product that will prevent concussion in football.

NFL Tracks Injury Data

In 2011, the NFL started an injury surveillance program to track trends in and causes of athletic injury. The program is run by Quintiles, the world's largest biopharmaceutical contact services company, and was recently extended for another five years.

The extended program will track data using the NFL's electronic medical records system, which was implemented before the 2014-15 season. It will also use clinical study data, media reports, and existing medical claims to track injuries. Quintiles executives told reporters that the program is focused on understanding the patterns of injury occurrence in players, in effort to promote player health.

The NFL, along with college and school-aged football programs, are attempting to try to understand when and why brain injuries occur and determine what can be changed to prevent them. In 2013, the NFL contributed $30 million to the National Institutes of Health for brain injury research. Another $100 million for research was promised as part of the settlement with the players' association.

Football is not the only sport associated with significant, life-changing brain injuries. Snowboardng, soccer, wrestling, and even baseball show the highest number of head injuries treated in emergency rooms. The top 10 sports-related head injury causes are:

1. Cycling

2. Football

3. Baseball and softball

4. Basketball

5. Skateboarding and scooters

6. Water sports

7. Soccer

8. Powered recreational vehicles

9. Winter sports

10. Trampolines

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UnitedHealth Tightens Rules on Hysterectomies

March 3, 2015,

14287831848_b7a01e153b_c.jpgThe country's largest health insurer, UnitedHealth Group, recently announced that it was tightening the rules around hysterectomies and the use of power morcellators. Doctors will not have to gain specific authorization to perform surgeries with morcellators, which are now linked to uterine cancer. Our team of uterine cancer lawyers details these new rules.

Starting in April 2015, doctors in United's network will have to get authorization before performing a hysterectomy with a power morcellator. Other types of hysterectomies, such as vaginal hysterectomies performed on an outpatient basis, will not require pre-approval.

Putting Lives at Risk

UnitedHealth is that latest company to take action against the medical devices known as a laparoscopic power morcellator. The problems with these devices became a topic of public debate in 2013, when an esteemed physician, Dr. Amy Reed, was diagnosed with an aggressive form of uterine cancer after undergoing a power morcellation surgery.

Neither Dr. Reed nor her doctors knew she had cancerous uterine cells before the surgery, but the power morcellator spread the cancer throughout her uterus and significantly worsened her likelihood of survival. Power morcellators work by cutting fibroids and other tissue with tiny spinning blades so they can be easily removed through a small incision. Fibroids often contain cancerous cells, which are spread throughout the uterus when cut up by the power morcellators, worsening the prognosis and survival outcome.

Worsening the issue, there is no reliable method to test for uterine cancer presence before surgery because the cancer cells live in the thick muscle or tissue of the uterus, making testing nearly impossible. Medical experts have tried for years to develop better testing methods, to no avail.

This type of procedure was offered to women as the most minimally-invasive option for hysterectomies and myomectomies. Recovery takes between two and four weeks, and patients are able to be back home the same day and return to normal life much faster than with traditional surgery, making it a tempting option for busy women.

Like thousands of other women, Dr. Reed was never told the morcellation surgery could spread hidden cancer, and the risk was not included in the informed consent papers. About 500,000 hysterectomies are performed every year, only 10 -15% of which are vaginal procedures performed on an outpatient basis, which is the only method that UnitedHealth will fully allow.

Outpatient vaginal hysterectomies do not use power morcellators and are considered the least invasive and least expensive method. Doctors believe this procedure is underused because it is not emphasized enough in medical training. Now that UnitedHealth is allowing only this type of hysterectomy to be performed without pre-approval, many are hoping it will spur broad clinical changes and hopefully improve training.

More than 40 million Americans are insured under UnitedHealth, and the insurer is trying to do more for their customers to ensure they received the safest, most effective treatment. Outpatient vaginal hysterectomies are not only the safest and most efficient, but the least expensive as well. According to the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, these surgeries cost about $7,900, while power morcellation hysterectomies average around $11,500, and robot-assisted hysterectomies cost around $13,400.

It can take days or weeks to get authorization from insurers for procedures, which can drag on evn longer if the company would like the doctor to consult one of their own medical experts. This new policy does not, however, cover hysterectomies for cancer treatment purposes.

Morcellation procedures have become so popular due in large part to the lobbying of medical device manufacturers. Companies like Johnson & Johnson often send sales teams out to hospitals and incentivize doctors to use their products, marketing devices like morcellators to doctors as a high-tech tool that will make the surgery easier.

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Medical Device Infecting Patients with "Super Bug"

February 27, 2015,

The FDA recently warned health care providers that improperly sterilized scopes are infecting patients with deadly, drug-resistant bacteria. The so-called "super bug" has already killed dozens of patients and caused hundreds others to fall ill. Medical device lawyers at Pintas & Mullins detail this outbreak below.

5080768357_4076960131_o.gif The drug-resistant family of bacteria is known as CRE (carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae) typically infect patients in hospitals and nursing homes - and particularly patients dependent on catheters or breathing tubes. The deaths and injuries associated with CRE have occurred at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Southern California and the Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle, Washington.

The duodenoscopes at the center of this outbreak have crevices and parts that are extremely difficult to reach with cleaning brushes, making total disinfecting almost impossible. These scopes are inserted into patients' throats, down into the stomach and small intestines to diagnose and treat liver, bile duct and pancreas diseases. About 500,000 of these types of procedures are performed each year in the U.S.

When these devices are not properly disinfected, bodily fluids and debris can remain on the scopes, exposing any patients undergoing an endoscopic procedure thereafter to contamination and infection. About 180 UCLA patients who underwent this procedure between October 2014 and January 2015 have been notified of their possible exposure.

CRE germs affect bodily systems broadly, infecting patients who are otherwise healthy and able-bodied. If CRE spreads, it can affect patients even with minor infections, like UTIs or small cuts, and cause fatal complications. Unfortunately, CRE is becoming increasingly common in American hospitals.

Currently, CRE infects about 9,300 people in the U.S. every year and kills about 610 patients. Whenever a CRE infection is confirmed, hospitals take aggressive measures to contain the bug, including: isolating patients, dedicating specific rooms, staff and equipment, and requiring higher hand-washing standards for staff.

Government Action

On February 19 the FDA issued a safety alert stating it was closely monitoring the situation and the association between these duodenoscopes and the infection of drug-resistant bacteria. The agency reportedly received about 75 complaints over the last two years regarding these duodenoscopes and bacterial infections in more than 130 patients. Almost all infections were resistant to antibiotic treatments.

The agency is stopping shy of issuing a national duodenoscope recall, since there are no alternative devices hospitals can use to treat and diagnose diseases of the liver, bile duct and pancreas. Three manufacturers sell these devices: Olympus, Fujifilm, and Pentax Medical. Nevertheless, members of congress are urging the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to hold a hearing on the outbreak.

The deaths in Seattle also caught the attention of Congress, enacting Washington senators who urged the FDA to provide better guidance on sanitation practices.

Injury Lawsuits Being Filed

The medical scope at the center of California outbreak is made by Olympus America, who was just hit with a lawsuit by an injured patient. The patient, Aaron Young, is alleging that Olympus failed to instruct UCLA Medical Center on how to properly disinfect the duodenoscopes. Olympus is being targeted because the hospital reportedly did sterilize the scopes according to the company's standards.

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Factory Worker's Arm Severed in Accident

February 24, 2015,

2243185736_fe84d8254e_o.jpgA 40-year-old factory employee lost his arm yesterday morning in a work accident. The factory is located in Bridgeport on Chicago's South Side. The man was taken to Stroger Hospital in critical condition. Work accident lawyers at Pintas & Mullins are currently accepting similar injury cases.

Although details of the accident were not available, we have dealt with many similar cases of catastrophic injury in the workplace. Many victims believe that the only way they can get compensation for their injuries is through their employer's workers' compensation insurance. It is important to note that there are many exceptions to this rule that employees need to know about.

If a worker suffers an extremely serious injury like a severed arm, it is likely that there was an outside factor involved in the accident. An example would be if an injury was caused by a defective or poorly maintained product. This would open up the possibility of filing a product liability lawsuit against the maintenance team or manufacturer.

Other examples where injured workers may be able to sue for additional damages include:

• Toxic exposure: many occupations and industries expose workers to toxic substances, such as asbestos, lead, diacetyl, or benzene. More information on this can be found here.

• Third party injuries: if your job requires that you travel, a car accident that left you injured could be considered a third party injury.

• Uninsured employers: if your employer does not have workers' compensation insurance, injured workers may be able to sue in civil court or collect from a state fund.

• Intentional or negligent conduct: personal injury lawsuits are an option if your injury was caused by someone else's negligence or intentional abuse.

Bringing a lawsuit outside of the workers' compensation system can give injured victims an opportunity for recover additional damages. The money provided by workers' compensation insurance are typically as low as possible, and do not give workers a chance to recover for pain and suffering. In particularly serious cases, a lawsuit could also result in punitive damages, which are fines against companies to specifically punish them for their negligence.

Another option for seriously injured workers is Social Security Disability Insurance. This is available only to workers who suffer an injury that is disabling and prevents further employment. There are two separate benefit programs under this option: Supplemental Security Income (SSI), which is available to elderly people or those whose incomes and assets are very low, or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), which is available to people who have already worked for a specific number of years.

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Why Surgeons Defend the Power Morcellator

February 17, 2015,

graduate-medical-educationobstetrics-and-gynecology-ob-gyn-surgery-scrubs-surgery-center-looking-over-medical-notes-at-desk-in-hallway.jpgA surgical device used in hysterectomies, myomectomies and other gynecological procedures is now linked to aggressive and fatal uterine cancer. The device, called a power morcellator, has been banned my top hospitals throughout the country and subject to cancer lawsuits. A group of surgeons, however, continues to defend the power morcellator. Our team of uterine cancer lawyers explores why doctors are standing behind this device.

The link between the morcellator and uterine cancer was publically exposed in 2013, when study after study confirmed the association. One of these studies, conducted by Columbia University, found that at least 1 woman out of every 370 that undergo a hysterectomy using a power morcellator will have undetected cancer cells. During the procedure, these cancer cells are spread throughout the uterus, planting in previously healthy tissue and creating massive tumor cell spread.

This confirms the FDA warning, made in April 2014, discouraging the use of power morcellators in hysterectomies and myomectomies, or surgeries to remove uterine fibroids. Power morcellators work by shredding large masses of tissue inside the body, so the tissue can be removed through a minimally-invasive incision. It was recommended to patients who were looking for shorter recovery times and less scar tissue.

The problem with this method is the likelihood that the tissue will contain undetected cancer cells - specifically, the cancer uterine leiomyosarcoma. This is an extremely aggressive form of cancer, and many women have been diagnosed with Stage 4 uterine leiomyosarcoma just weeks after morcellation procedures. There is no test to detect these cancer cells before surgery.

During an FDA hearing on power morcellators in July 2014, however, many gynecologsts and surgeons said they still believed the benefits of morcellation surgery outweighed the risks. The American Association of Gynecologic Laparoscopists (AAGL) later released a report saying morcellation remains safe "when performed by experienced, high-volume surgeons."

Conflicts of Interest

Like most other issues in healthcare, there were outside influencing factors at play here. One of the AAGL executive officers, Arnold Advincula, who had considerable say in the report, received "consulting fees" (or more simply, cash) from a morcellator manufacturer. Specifically, Advincula - who is now the AAGL president - has received at least $50,000 in the last year for consulting services with Blue Endo, which sells power morcellators.

The former president of the AAGL, Andrew Brill, has also done considerable "consulting" for morcellator companies. He chose to step down from the FDA morcellator panel in July 2014. More than 7,500 gynecologists read reports from the AAGL closely for guidance on best practices.

Yet another former AAGL president, Ceana Nezhat, recused himself from the morcellator report due to his own financial ties with a morcellator manufacturer. He neither voted on nor discussed the report with the other AAGL members. He also requested that Advincula do the same, to no avail. After the report was published, Nezhat sent an email stating that it was misleading and that the AAGL needed a zero-tolerance conflict of interest policy.

Since its release, the AAGL report has been used to credit the use of power morcellators and even persuade hospital administrators to continue offering morcellation surgeries.
Despite this report, the FDA has repeatedly warned doctors not to use morcellators on women, and most hospitals have stopped using them in gynecologic procedures. Johnson & Johnson, a major maker of power morcellators, pulled its devices from global markets.

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Some Doctors Untrained with Mirena, IUDs

February 16, 2015,

5007140130_e1d665e5ef_b.jpgIntrauterine devices, or IUDs, have become the most popular reversible form of birth control in the world. This is despite massive lawsuits, subpar research, bad press, and the improper training for doctors. The Mirena lawyers at Pintas & Mullins are currently investigating cases of serious injury from IUD use.

Since 2002, the number of American women using an IUD like Mirena has tripled, accounting for more than 10% of all contraceptives prescribed by doctors. When they were first introduced, IUDs were recommended only to women who were done having children due to the risks of infertility, hysterectomy, and infections. This practice changed quite recently, resulting in the device's new popularity, particularly among young, unmarried, childless women.

There are two types of IUDs available in the U.S.: ParaGuard, which is non-hormonal and releases tiny amounts of copper to prevent pregnancy, and Mirena, which uses small amounts of a synthetic hormone called levonorgestrel. Unlike the pill, IUDs do not prevent ovulation; rather, they prevent egg fertilization and implantation.

ParaGuard costs about $300, is considered extremely safe, lasts for 10 to 12 years, and uses copper to stimulate a natural fluid that kills sperm and prevents implantation. Mirena costs upwards of $1,000, lasts for five years and prevents pregnancy by thickening a fluid in the cervix, stopping sperm from entering the fallopian tubes where fertilization occurs. Unlike ParaGuard, the side effects of Muirena can be devastating.

Doctors not Confident with IUDs

All IUDs must be inserted and removed by trained health professionals. Some pediatricians and other doctors are concerned because their basic medical training never included proper insertion of an IUD. Ob/gyns are most competent in inserting IUDs, but for young women and teens, privacy can certainly be an issue. A teenager may not be able to tell her parents she needs birth control, and in places where doctors are harder to reach, geography could also play a role.

Experts are attempting to change this by making IUD insertion a mandatory aspect of medical residencies, particularly for pediatricians. The bottom line here is that training needs to be improved in the best interest of patient health and safety.

For thousands of women, the call for proper doctor training has come far too late. Among the more serious and life-altering complications of Mirena, most can be attributed to improper insertion and monitoring. Mirena's risks include:

• Perforation of internal organs, such as the uterus
• Expulsion
• Pelvic infections, such as pelvic inflammatory disesae
• Inflammation of the endometrium
• Endometrial or cervical cancer
• Blood pressure increase
• Ectopic pregnancy
• Painful intercourse

Some women have been forced to undergo hysterectomies due to these complications - many of whom were women in their 20s without children, but who wished to eventually have children. The most devastating Mirena injuries occur when the IUD perforates the uterus and migrates through the abdomen or other organs. This results in scar tissue, infections, cysts, and organ blockages.

In addition to the pain, Mirena perforation also requires extensive, repeated, invasive surgeries that often leave young women infertile. Thousands of women have suffered this life-changing complication, resulting in massive lawsuits against Bayer, the manufacturer of Mirena.

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TVM Lawsuit Updates

February 12, 2015,

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for gavel-6_l.jpgThe federal transvaginal mesh (TVM) litigation is underway in West Virginia, where Johnson & Johnson's Ethicon unit is defending its mesh products. Our team of TVM attorneys is keeping a close eye on this litigation as it moves forward. Here are some of the most recent developments.

Johnson & Johnson recently submitted a request to investigate the source of phone calls made to women across the country, soliciting information on their medical history with TVM products. The company was concerned these phone calls resulted in "baseless" lawsuits over its TVM devices. Yesterday, Reuters reported that the company dropped its request. Many believe the request was merely a delay tactic.

The judge overseeing this case, Judge Goodwin, told lawyers that this request was not helpful in establishing mutual trust between the company and the injured plaintiffs. Johnson & Johnson is just one of seven TVM manufacturers subject to injury lawsuits, though it is certainly the largest. More than 70,000 lawsuits have been filed on behalf of women injured by mesh products, about 35,000 of which are against J&J.

TVM products are implanted in women to treat pelvic organ prolapse and stress urinary incontinence. These products, which appear as plastic surgical mesh, were minimally tested and so poorly designed that the injuries are devastating women and their families. Some of the complications of TVM devices include:

• Multiple corrective surgeries
• Mesh erosion or perforation
• Painful sexual intercourse
• Extreme abdominal and pelvic pain
• Recurrence of stress urinary incontinence or pelvic organ prolapse
• Infection
• Nerve damage
• Bleeding

These side effects impact every aspect of women's lives, causing extensive emotional harm along with physical. Adding insult to injury, most women were never informed of the massive risks they were taking before undergoing the TVM procedure.

Due to this extreme negligence, injured women across the country are filing lawsuits against TVM manufacturers. In addition to Johnson & Johnson, the other manufacturers are: American Medical Systems, C.R. Bard, Boston Scientific, Neomedic, Cook Medical, and Coloplast.

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Hormone Therapy after Knee, Hip Replacements Help Recovery

February 10, 2015,

8737563510_1c23d5c3da_o.pngOne of the most painful, expensive and dangerous complications of knee and hip replacements is the possibility of a revision surgery. Revisions are second surgeries performed on the implant site because of early complications or device failure. Our team of hip and knee implant lawyers reports on recent research that may help preserve joint implants.

Hormone replacement therapy, or HRT, is commonly used by women after menopause. Patients take medications containing female hormones to replace those lost, to treat hot flashes and other menopause symptoms. One recent study found that women who undergo HRT after total knee or hip replacements had at least a 40% decrease risk of revision surgery.

The study was conducted at the University of Oxford and published in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases. Researchers found that, compared to non-HRT users, women who regularly took HRT in the year after hip or knee surgery reached a 50% reduction in revision risk. Nearly 25,000 women undergoing knee or hip surgery were used in this study. Mean age was 65, with a BMI of 28.5.

The most common reason knee or hip implants fail is because of device loosening, which causes pain, bone loss and other symptoms. Revision surgeries are not only expensive, risky and painful, but they result in less than ideal outcomes for patients compared to those who only need the original surgery.

According to the Oxford researchers, the mechanisms underlying device loosening are still obscure, but related to chronic inflammation and bone loss. HRT medications are thought to protect against bone loss. Those patients who strongly adhered to the HRT treatment had significantly decreased risk of revision compared to patients with low levels of adherence.

HRT comes with its own risks and side effects, however. Among the most serious include heart disease, stroke, blood clots, and breast cancer. More information can be found here, on the Mayo Clinic's website.

Hip and Knee Implants Recalled

A few years ago, a new breed of hip replacements, called metal-on-metal implants (MoM), were introduced to the market. MoM implants were originally marketed to younger patients under the guise that they would allow for increased mobility in more active people. The reality, however, is that these MoM implants are extraordinarily dangerous and have been subject to massive recalls.

In 2013, the FDA confirmed that MoM hip implants have unique risks in addition to the general risks of all hip implants. Because these devices are made entirely of metal, when the ball and cup slide against each other during daily use metal releases from the implant. Metal release can cause particles to wear off into the space around the implant. This can lead to bone erosion, blood metal toxicity, and other serious complications.

Three types of MoM hip implants have been recalled:

DePuy ASR TM XL Acetabular System
• Smith & Nephew R3 Metal Liners
Zimmer Durom Acetabular Component

There are many other types of MoM hips that are injuring patients across the country. Stryker is one of the largest medical device companies that has yet to recall its MoM hip system, despite thousands of premature failures and forced revision surgeries. Companies like Stryker, DePuy, Zimmer and Smith & Nephew are now subject to lawsuits because of these MoM devices.

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NFL Commercials Highlights Importance of Household Accidents

February 2, 2015,

3466081918_fa60844c87_o.pngDuring the Super Bowl last night, a controversial commercial for Nationwide Insurance captured the attention of viewers throughout the country. Some were outraged by the ad, which is narrated by a little boy explaining all the things he will miss in live because he died in an accident. Although the ad angered many people, it highlights a supremely important issue that is too often overlooked: preventable accidents and deaths.

Our accident and injury attorneys have written about this topic on this blog many times before, usually in response to a massive child product recall. In these blogs we often cite the nonprofit group Kids in Danger, which is one of the leaders in product safety. The group places much of its focus on recalled and needlessly dangerous children's products, which are highly unregulated.

In one of their studies, Kids in Danger found that only 10% of recalled children's products are ever returned or replaced. The remaining 90 out of 100 products remain in family homes like a ticking time bomb. Why so many recalled products remain in homes involves a complex web of factors, including a lack of transparency, regulation and oversight failure, and public negligence.

The truth that the commercial is trying to convey is that preventable accidents are the number one cause of childhood deaths. The ad showed fallen televisions, spilled household cleaning products, and overflowing bathtubs to demonstrate the most common accidents leading to death and injury among children, and prompts viewers to visit makesafehappen.com for tips and resources. The website is intended to help educate caregivers and parents on how to make the home safer.

People on social media were, not surprisingly, extremely critical about the ad. Although the ad was dark, it certainly serves a higher purpose: to get people talking about a tough issue. One of the most important hurdles to curbing these preventable accidents is to reform how our product recalls system works.

Furniture is one of the most common causes of child injuries and deaths. Typically, it takes about 14 reported incidents and two injuries to incite a product recall - but these need to be reported to the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to be effective.

After reports are submitted, the government informs the product manufacturer that they should initiate a recall, but there is no guarantee the company will comply quickly, if at all. The CPSC cannot mandate a recall itself; if a company is refusing to recall the CPSC must take the issue to court, which can then require a recall.

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Salmonella and Foodborne Illness Lawsuits

January 28, 2015,

3338894006_813f327ffc_o.jpgMost Americans heard about the Salmonella outbreak from Foster Farms chicken in 2013 and 2014. The contamination sickened thousands of people and sent hundreds to the hospital for serious illness. What most Americans do not know is how important food contamination litigation is to keeping our food safe. Salmonella lawyers at Pintas & Mullins explain exactly how food recalls are conducted in the U.S., and who is holding negligent companies responsible for selling unsafe food.

Experts estimate that, for every reported case of foodborne illness, about 28 go unreported. About 690 people reported Salmonella sickness from the Foster Farms chicken, meaning the outbreak actually affected as many as 18,000 people. Fortunately, no deaths were reported, but there were immense losses from the outbreak for thousands of families.

Victims of food contamination - whether it is Salmonella, Listeria, E.coli, or any other contaminant - suffer a myriad of ailments, from organ failure to paralysis. In more serious cases, victims can be hospitalized for months and never fully recover from the infection.

As System of Epidemics

Every year, tens of millions of Americans are sickened, hundreds of thousands are hospitalized, and about 3,000 die from contaminated food. Most of the bacterium and viruses that infect our food is potentially lethal, particularly for the elderly, infants, and those with compromised immune systems. Salmonella kills more people than any other foodborne pathogen, as an increasing number of strains are becoming drug-resistant.

This may not be news to some readers; most Americans know that certain levels of salmonella contamination are permitted in the U.S. food supply. Most people do not know exactly how the food recall system works, who it is run by, and what incentives food companies have to keep our food safe.

When an foodborne outbreak occurs, identifying the source is relatively simple with modern technology. Stopping the outbreak, however, is much more complicated, and falls on the shoulders of the U.S.D.A.'s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). The FSIS does not have power to force food recalls - they can only ask companies to voluntarily remove the product. And they can only ask companies for a voluntary recall if they have definitive proof that the meat is making consumers sick, by genetic matching between a victims' salmonella and the salmonella in packaged meat. The meat still has to be in the victims' possession, with the labels still attached.

Obviously, this makes recalls difficult to come by, even when the government knows that a certain company's food is making people sick. In the Foster Farms case, FSIS officials were not able to request a recall until more than a year after the outbreak began.

Food safety in the U.S. is a complex (and, many argue, broken) system: responsibility is divided among 15 federal agencies, consumer watchdog groups, food industry, and legal enforcement. Unfortunately, the legal side of the system, meaning the injury lawsuits that are filed after-the-fact, is the only part of the system that functions properly, actually incentivizing companies to sell safe food.

How Filing a Lawsuit Helps Change the System

Lawsuits are major players in changing food safety policy in ways that government, industry, and consumer groups cannot. The costs handed down by judges and juries are the strongest penalties food companies are subjected to, stronger than any regulation. The government cannot even mandate a food recall. When regulation fails (as it does, time and time again), litigation is the only way food companies are held accountable.

Take, for example, one of the largest food-poisoning claims in U.S. history, which occurred in the 90s against Jack in the Box. By cutting corners, not cooking food properly, and ignoring state guidelines, the fast food chain sold E.coli-contaminated burgers to consumers, killing four children, and sickening hundreds of others. Jack in the Box ultimately agreed to more than $50 million in settlements, $15.6 million of which went to a ten-year-old girl who spent 40 days in a coma.

Another example was the 2011 Listeria outbreak from cantaloupe farmed in Colorado. At least 33 people died from Listeria, which contaminated the cantaloupes when they were washed with tap water at the manufacturing plant instead of the FDA-recommended antimicrobial solution. Dozens of victims filed suit, not only against the Colorado farm, but also against retailers like Kroger and Walmart, and the private company that reviewed the farm's safety practices, PrimusLabs.

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Dog Attack Victim Wins $36 Million

January 23, 2015,

293195837_7dd74d58fb_o.jpgAn eight-year-old girl who was critically injured in a dog attack was recently awarded $36 million by a jury in Georgia. The girl was attacked by several dogs, causing one of her arms to be amputated. Dog bite injury lawyers at Pintas & Mullins detail this case and dog attack liability.

The jury in this case initially awarded the girl and her family $72 million in her injury lawsuit, however, the judge later reduced the amount to $36 million. The suit was filed against the owner of the dogs that attacked the little girl and left her permanently disabled. The woman was charged with reckless conduct, violation of vicious dog ordinances, and failing to have his dogs vaccinated for rabies. She was also sentenced to 16 months in jail.

Most states have what's known as strict liability dog statutes, meaning that the dog owners are liable if their dog causes an injury regardless of whether or not they knew it was dangerous. Many cover any kind of dog-inflicted injuries, not just bites or attacks. These are called "strict liability" because the injured victim does not have to prove that the owner was negligent or did anything wrong to cause the injury.

To file a successful lawsuit in a state with this type of dog bite law, victims have to prove four things:

1. The victim did not provoke the dog to bite or attack
2. The victim was indeed attack, and it caused an injury
3. The owner is the person being sued
4. The victim was acting peacefully in a place they could lawfully be (so not trespassing on someone's property)

In many cases, a claim can be filed even if the injury is not directly from a bite. For example, if a dog ran out and frightened someone, or started chasing someone and they fell and were injured, they may still be able to recover compensation.

Some states do only cover dog bites and attacks, however, and some states allow a dog owner to escape liability if they can prove that the dog was provoked. The victim has to prove that the injury was caused by a dog biting, attacking, wounding, killing, or chasing someone or something (such as another dog).

In Illinois, injured victims must only prove that they were not provoking the dog or trespassing to have a successful liability claim.

According to the CDC, more than 4.5 million Americans are bitten by dogs each year, and hundreds of thousands require serious medical attention. About half of those bitten are children, and since they are closer to dogs' mouths, their faces are more vulnerable to serious bites.

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