The hidden cost of tort deform

General Motors knew that its ignition switches were faulty but allowed people to continue to drive Chevy Cobalts and other cars for years.  To date, 49 of those people have died in crashed related to the defective switches, and many more suffered horrific injuries.

burningcar

However, many families of these innocent victims have not been able to obtain justice.  Many states, including Ohio, place a limit on the amount of compensation injury victims and their families can get under the guise of “tort reform.”  As pointed out in this recent New York Times piece, it simply becomes too expensive to bring a case, in light of what the law allows to be recovered.  Said another way, by the time experts are hired to prove the case, the value of the injuries and suffering is not enough to obtain a successful result.

In fact, Ohio even takes the added step of cutting off the right to bring a case after the product is 10 years old.  This “statute of repose” applies even if it is defective and dangerous and even if the manufacturer knew of the problem.

What does this mean to you:  

No one would dispute that frivoulous lawsuits have no place in our legal system. The dispute is, what constitutes “frivolous” and who gets to decide?  Politicians or a jury of your peers?

The itsy, bitsy baby climbed out of the high chair

I saw this story in the Columbus Dispatch today noting an increase in the number of injuries to babies caused by high chairs.  On average, 9,400 kids are hurt every year due to high chairs – a number that has been on the rise.

Baby in highchair

To be sure, some injuries were caused by children climbing out, while other are related to defects in the chair itself.

What does this mean to you:

Always register your baby products with the manufacturer so you are kept abreast of recalls.  Or, you can sign up to receive alerts from the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

 

You caught us red – hipped

There are really only 2 reasons a company ever does anything.  The first, and most pervasive reason, is to make money.  The second is when it forced, kicking and screaming, to take responsibility through the justice system for its own products or conduct.

money in trap

The latter was the case this week when Johnson & Johnson agreed to pay $2.5 billion to settle claims related to its defective metal-on-metal hip implants. The company had known for some time that their devices would fail, but forgot to mention it to anyone.  Oops.

What does this mean to you.

It is not too late to make a claim if you had a hip implant made by Johnson & Johnson or DePuy.

The cure may be worse than the symptoms

Thousands of women across Columbus, Ohio, and the country have had vaginal mesh, or bladder sling, surgically implanted in an attempt to repair pelvic organ prolapse (POP) and stress urinary incontinence (SUI).

tired woman

Unfortunately, mesh can erode and fail, causing bleeding, pain during intercourse, vaginal scarring, and urinary tract infection, among other symptoms.  The FDA not admits that mesh failures are “not rare.”

Mesh implants were mainly manufactured by four companies – American Medical Systems, Boston Scientific Corp., Johnson & Johnson’s Ethicon and C.R. Bard.

What does this mean to you:

Sometimes, a product which is meant to help, only hurts, and makes things worse.    If we can help or answer any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.

 

 

Injured workers in Ohio dealt a legal blow

The Ohio Supreme Court ruled today that if an employer removes a safety device, like guard on a press, and someone is injured while working there, like losing losing their fingers or hand, they cannot hold their boss responsible for their injuries unless they PROVE that their boss meant to hurt them.

Yellow hardhat

The idea in someone’s head and what they were intending to do is an extremely difficult, if not impossible, thing to prove.  Today’s ruling is an unfortunate extension of an earlier decision from the Court.

What does this mean to you:

Someone injured or killed on the job is not always left out in the cold. If a person or company other than your employer was at fault – such as a sub-contractor doing work at an industrial job site or construction site, the manufacturer of a defective product, or any other third party – they may be entitled to make a claim, even though the injury happened while on the job.  A major part of any case brought by a lawyer or law firm is investigating all potentially-liable parties.  Workers comp may also be available, but by no means makes the person whole.

 

It can wait

 

As noted earlier this year, April is Distracted Driving Awareness month.  Since then, though, the number of deaths from texting while driving just in Ohio – not to mention nationwide – continues to rise.

At least she’s got one hand on the wheel…

There is a new resource available at EndDD.org.  It shares the real-world story of Casey Feldman who was struck and killed by a texting driver as she crossed the street.  EndDD.org also has a checklist of pledges, which can be especially helpful for teenage drivers.

What does this mean to you:

Ohio’s texting while driving ban went into effect at the beginning of September.  Not only is it now against the law, its just dangerous.  Put down the cell phone while driving.  Nothing is that important.  It can wait.

 

You actually want to use it?

I saw a political cartoon a few years back that wondered what other industries would look like if they operated the same way out health insurance system does.  “You want to join our gym?  OK.  However, our data suggests you might actually use the equipment, so you cannot be a member here.”

I’m going to go with C, Bob, for $1,000.

So, as we await the Supreme Court’s decision on the Affordable Care Act in the Florida v. Department of Health and Human Services case (as if the outcome is in doubt), it seemed a post on health insurance was timely.

We all know that health insurance companies exist for one reason and one reason only: to make a profit.  And they seem to be doing quite well at that. One of the ways they recoup funds is through a process called subrogation, which is just a fancy word for “pay back.”  If health insurance pays money for you to go to the doctor, and if it is someone else’s fault you had to go to the doctor – because you were in a car crash or were injured by a defective product – the health insurance company generally has the right to be repaid out of any settlement or recovery you make.

What does this mean to you:

Though health insurance companies often have the right to be paid back in full before the injured person sees dime one (thanks to an Ohio Supreme Court ruling), lawyers handling a personal injury case frequently negotiate with the health carrier to reduce the amount that is owed back..

Thanks for nothing

Medical devices are supposed to solve our medical ailments, not cause them.  What am I missing here?

However, the FDA announced last summer that it was concerned about problems caused by surgical mesh – a medical device implanted, usually in women, to repair a hernia or pelvic organ prolapse (POP). Problems can involve bleeding, infection, pain, and urinary problems.  Then, earlier this year, the FDA ordered makers of surgical mesh to more closely study the risks involved with their products.  As of today, Johnson & Johnson, one of several manufacturers, has stated it will no longer sell surgical mesh products.  (Recall that this is the same Johnson & Johnson who also made the now-recalled DePuy ASR hip implants.)

What does this mean to you:

Though surgical mesh has not been recalled, it has caused enough issues to raise serious concerns.  Keep in mind that complications following a surgery are not always “normal,” and may actually be related to a medical device with known problems.

If it is broke, fix it

Most people don’t like needles, let alone a small camera inserted into their hearts.  But in the case of heart catheters, that long needle allows doctors to see inside a patient’s heart and diagnose, and even prevent, dangerous heart conditions.

Aim right here.

Boston Scientific, maker of the heart catheter called the iCross, has issued a recall.  During surgery, the tip of the catheter can break off and remain lodged in the heart.  This foreign body left inside can cause an embolism, heart attack, or even death.  You can learn more about the recall on the FDA‘s website – here.

What does this mean to you:

As our parents, grandparents and friends continue to age, we will become increasingly dependent on – and at the mercy of – medical devices such as the iCross and DePuy hip implants, that can and do fail.  For these reasons, it is important to know the make and model of any medical device used in case of future recall or problems.

A better mousetrap

Whenever time allows, I try to get into the workshop for some quality time woodworking.

This is a stand-up desk I built. I now use it in my office at work.

Half the fun or working on projects are the tools you get to use.  But to say that these tools can be dangerous is an understatement, and few tools are more dangerous than the table saw.  Every year, more than 3,500 people lose a finger on a traditional table saw.

This saw does not have SawStop, much less a guard.

But there is a technology that can prevent virtually all finger amputations from table saws.  Its called SawStop.  It works by sensing the electrical  current in a finger and immediately stops the blade from spinning.  However, none of the major manufacturers of table saws have incorporated this technology into their saws.  The companies, through their trade group – The Power Tool Institute, are even fighting making this technology mandatory for all table saws.

What does this mean to you:

Does everyone know that table saws are dangerous?  Sure.  But does everyone know that the manufacturers could make their table saws safer and avoid the horror of amputations, but have chosen not to?  Methinks not. Even when a product does not malfunction, it may still be defective based on the design choices made by the manufacturer.