January 2012 Archives

January 30, 2012

Kentucky Couple Files Product Liability Suit against Kraft Foods

716277_kd.jpgOn September 21, 2011, Leamon Perkins of Pine Knot, Kentucky in McCreary County ate a bowl of microwavable Velveeta Shells and Cheese. He became very ill and ended up in surgery on September 29, 2011. According to his doctors, Mr. Perkins' small bowel was perforated with a small piece of metal that showed up on a CT scan and he had contracted peritonitis. The surgeon removed the portion of his small bowel that had been damaged by the sliver of metal and the metal piece itself.

The next day, Kraft Foods, the manufacturer of the macaroni and cheese recalled 137,000 cases of the product "as a precaution due to the possible presence of small, thin wire bristle pieces," according to the FDA recall press release. The recall was voluntary, as opposed to FDA-mandated, and Kraft stated it had not received any complaints or heard of anyone being injured.

Mr. Perkins filed a product liability lawsuit this month against Kraft. Why he waited so long to file the lawsuit is unknown. It is possible that he was not aware of the product recall until recently, so he did not put the two together. Kentucky law allows individuals to file product liability claims up to one year after the injury occurred, so he was well within the filing period.

In the lawsuit, Mr. Perkins is seeking $6 million in damages. The amount includes both compensatory and punitive damages. His wife has requested $500,000 in damages for loss of consortium. Compensatory damages often include lost wages and medical bills, as well as other less tangible items, such as physical and emotional distress. Loss of consortium is most often claimed by a spouse for lost or interrupted marital relations related to the accident. It can also be claimed by a parent or child of a victim for a reduction or termination of affection because of the victim's injuries. Punitive damages are not related to a particular loss, but instead serve to punish the defendant for the incident that occurred. Many plaintiffs claim punitive damages in an attempt to deter the defendant from allowing a similar incident to occur in the future.

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January 24, 2012

Kentucky Nursing Home being investigated by Attorney General's Office

Placing a loved one in a nursing home or other long-term care facility can be a difficult decision. As people get older, they are unable to care for themselves, and leaving them in a private home or apartment without supervision can be dangerous. Relocating them to a place where they can receive the assistance and supervision they need can be the right choice. Unfortunately, nursing home residents can encounter dangerous or inappropriate situations as well in the form of abuse or neglect.

The Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services Office is in place to help protect nursing home residents. If the office determines a facility has acted inappropriately, it issues a citation. Citations range in severity, with a Type A citation being the most serious. This citation level is given when a state regulation has been violated and a resident's life or safety has been put in jeopardy. All Type A citations are reported to the Kentucky Attorney General's office, which reviews the citations and determines whether or not the case should be assigned to a prosecutor.

The Kentucky Attorney General's office is currently reviewing a Type A citation that it received regarding Charleston Health Care Center in Danville, Kentucky. The citation is related to two incidents that occurred in the summer of 2011. On July 20th, a resident alleges that he or she was hit on the head, two times on each side, then covered with a pillow. The aide was suspended for two days while the allegation was investigated, but the nursing home and the family of the resident decided the accusation was probably false because of the mental status of the resident. A medical assistant did notice a small bruise on the resident's face that was not there previously, which may lend some credibility to the accusation.

Later that same summer, on August 10th, the same nurse's aide was found curled up in bed next to a patient by a staff member. When the staff member confronted him, he kissed the patient on the cheek and said "no one cared what he did." Two days after this incident, the administration became aware of it and the aide was fired.

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January 18, 2012

Louisville, Kentucky Settles More Personal Injury Lawsuits from Zoo Train Derailment

1350732_train_tracks_1.jpgOn June 1, 2009, a small passenger train that has run for many years around the perimeter of the Louisville Zoo in Kentucky derailed, spilling all of its passengers out of the cars. While there were no fatalities, 22 people, including 17 children, were sent to hospitals with injuries. Multiple personal injury lawsuits have been filed as a result of this accident.

Shortly after the accident, lawsuits were filed by multiple plaintiffs against different defendants, including Chance Rides Manufacturing, Mary Coffey, and the Louisville Zoo. The first defendant, Chance Rides Manufacturing, is the company that manufactured and sold the train to the zoo. Claims against the company are likely product liability claims, which state that a company knowingly has manufactured and distributed a dangerous or faulty product that has caused property damage or personal injury. Mary Coffey was operating the train when it derailed. She has been charged with negligence in some of the cases based on reports that the train was going too fast and that she was not experienced enough to be running the train when the accident occurred. The lawsuits against the Louisville Zoo could contain a variety of charges including negligence for allowing Ms. Coffey to operate the train without proper training and not properly maintaining the train or the tracks. A couple of the lawsuits also included restraining orders in an attempt to prohibit the zoo from moving the train before it could be examined by experts hired by the plaintiffs.

Over $500,000 has been paid by the city of Louisville to settle 23 claims, including $150,000 this month. This amount does not include legal fees, which are upwards of $175,000 already. Some of the largest claims are still to come, including one filed by a family that had four individuals injured. The father suffered serious injuries to his legs and has already incurred over $350,000 in medical expenses. Damages in this type of case typically will not only include medical expenses, but also lost wages, loss of future earnings, and compensation for emotional distress for both the victim and his family. Considering the extent of injuries and number of people involved, the award in this case may end up being in the millions. This claim is one of six remaining claims that will most likely be mediated and settled without a trial.

The Kentucky Department of Agriculture investigated the accident. The department's final report noted excessive speed, an inexperienced driver, and the poor condition of the train as the most likely causes of the accident. The Louisville Zoo has purchased two new trains since the accident and hopes to have them running in the spring or summer of 2012.

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January 10, 2012

Woman Sues Drug Companies over Drug Given to Her Mother before Birth

72201_prescription_med.jpgBetween 1940 and the early 1970s, millions of expectant mothers were given the drug diethylstilbestrol (DES) to help prevent miscarriages and premature births. A study in 1971 found a potential link between the drug and an increased risk for vaginal cancer in young women whose mothers took DES. Doctors were told to stop prescribing it. Many product liability lawsuits have been filed over the years by women who allegedly have vaginal cancer, cervical cancer, or infertility issues as a result of their mothers being given DES during pregnancy.

In a recent lawsuit, a Boston woman is claiming something different. Arline MacCormack developed breast cancer when she was 44. While many women have breast cancer at that age or even younger, her type of cancer is typically not seen in women younger than 60.

After discovering research that linked DES to a significant increase in breast-cancer risks for women, Ms. MacCormack filed her lawsuit against several drug companies that manufactured and sold the drug to women like her mother in the 1960s. Her suit alleges that the drug companies were not only aware that DES did not prevent a woman from having a miscarriage, but also that there were safety issues with the drug that the companies kept from physicians.

The drug companies have filed pre-trial motions stating there is no scientific evidence regarding this supposed link between DES and breast cancer, and the presiding judge has heard testimony from experts for the companies and Ms. MacCormack. If the judge grants the companies' motion, the case will not go to trial. If their motion is denied, the case will go to trial.

Drug liability cases can become very complex. In the case above, the plaintiff, Ms. MacCormack is seeking restitution for a drug that was not even given to her directly, but to her mother 50 years ago. While this can make a case more challenging, this situation is not that uncommon. Side effects of drugs given to women during pregnancy can take years to show up in their offspring. Other types of product liability cases, such as those involving asbestos, can also have a significant delay between the time of the exposure and the appearance of symptoms. Trying to prove which company manufactured and sold the drug that a particular individual took many years ago would be difficult, so oftentimes multiple companies are included in the suit and may share the liability and be required to pay damages.

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January 3, 2012

Kentucky Ranked as One of Worst States for Driving, but Car Accident Fatalities Decline

In late 2011, CarInsuranceCompare.com collected information from several sources and compiled a list of the best and worst states in which to drive. Factors included the number of accident deaths, drunk drivers and traffic tickets, and how many drivers were cited for failing to obey traffic signals. Kentucky ranked as the seventh worst state for driving. According to the report, this is not surprising since states in the south seemed to fair worse in the ranking than those in the north. It does to say to keep in mind that many of the northern states are smaller than their southern counterparts, which means people are driving fewer miles to reach their destinations. Also, many of the northern states have large metropolitan areas, such as New York City and Boston, where many people do not own cars, relying on public transportation instead.

While drivers may dispute whether or not their state is one of the worst to drive in, it does seem to have an effect on insurance rates. Louisiana, which was ranked as the worst state for driving, had the highest insurance rates according to several different sources. One source ranked Kentucky as being the 19th most expensive insurance, which isn't the worst, but certainly isn't the best news for Kentucky drivers. Other factors are obviously involved in insurance rates, such as the values of the cars being insured in the state and what kind of coverage a state requires their drivers to carry.

High scores for both drunk driving and driving carelessly landed Kentucky in the number seven slot on the list. While the former may seem to be a more serious offense than the latter, careless driving can be just as deadly. Numerous Kentuckians have lost their lives in the last year due to careless drivers, including the 11 people killed in a van that was hit by a trucker distracted by his cell phone.

Kentucky also ranks seventh in car accident fatalities. Fortunately, this number dropped again in 2011. As of December 21, 701 people had died in car accidents in 2011. This is a significant decrease from 750 in 2010 and a large improvement over 845 deaths in 2007. Kentucky State Police attribute this decrease not only to their efforts in educating drivers and enforcing the laws, but also to drivers paying more attention to driving and being less distracted behind the wheel. Police spokesman David Jude said "distracted driving is really on people's minds and it's starting to make a difference."

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