September 16, 2013

Indiana Woman Dies After Speeding Car Crashes Through Metal Fence, Lands in Lake George

A woman died recently in Hobart, Indiana, after crashing her car through a metal gate and landing in Lake George.

lake-george-211920-m.jpgWitnesses who travelled behind the woman, 83 years old, noticed that she was speeding and driving erratically as she traveled down Route 130 and Route 51. She would weave in and out of traffic, and racing through red stoplights at up to 60 miles per hour.
At some point after the woman reached downtown Hobart, she "went airborne" at the top of a hill and her car smashed through a metal gate that separated the town from Lake George. Her car eventually landed in the lake, 50 feet from the edge, where the water was 10 feet high. Witnesses dove into the murky lake after her and spent 10 minutes working to pull the woman out, during which time they sustained injuries from broken glass. The Hobart Fire Department treated her at the scene and she was then transported to St. Mary Medical Center, where she later died. Lake County divers also spent more than one hour working to pull the car from the lake.

Despite her erratic driving, the woman managed to avoid causing injuries or fatalities. One witness speculated that her behavior might have been due to a medical condition, or possibly due to a broken accelerator. The age and condition of her vehicle prior to the crash is unknown.

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September 10, 2013

Two Missouri Men Killed in a Speed Boat Accident on Kentucky's Lake Cumberland

This past weekend, two men from Missouri were killed in a speed boat accident in southern Kentucky. They were driving a high-powered speed boat on Lake Cumberland when, unexpectedly, the boat flipped over, throwing both men into the water. Their bodies were retrieved one hour later. Investigators attributed the accident to driver error.

The driver apparently was new to boat-water-trail-1343298-m.jpgspeed boating and was described by friends as an enthusiast. The two men were participating in an event known as the Lake Cumberland Power Run, which supposedly combined "the raw fury of over 150 of the country's meanest and fastest powerboats with the fun and energy of Mardi Gras." Yet the driver's inexperience may have led him to underestimate the potential speed of the boat he was powering. A Kentucky Fish and Wildlife investigator noted that the boat's top speed may have been as high as 100 miles per hour. When both men were ejected, the driver suffered blunt force trauma to the head, while the other man suffered blunt force trauma to his abdomen and lower extremities.

Despite the deadliness of boat accidents, not nearly as much attention is given to boat safety as car safety. In Kentucky, someone operating a boat unsupervised is required to get an education certificate in boat safety only if that person is between the ages of 12 and 17 and only if the motorized boat has more than 10 horsepower. The state's DMV encourages those who don't fall within the age range to get an education certificate anyway, but does not require it. Therefore, a Kentucky resident of the driver's age, with his level of experience, would not be required to obtain any sort of training prior to operating a high-speed boat. Instead, the only requirement is that the boat must be registered.

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August 29, 2013

Kentucky High School Football Player Back at Practice After a Serious Car Accident

This fall, Somerset High School in Somerset, Kentucky will welcome back their tight end/defensive end, Jacobi Gilmore, who was involved in a serious car accident the previous year.

football-1-645083-m.jpgIn October 2012, Gilmore and his Briar Jumpers teammate, Will Hinton, got into the accident when their car collided with a tractor trailer while pulling onto East Kentucky 80 after football practice. Hinton, the driver, suffered a broken pelvis, while Gilmore suffered a concussion, brain bleeding, a broken jaw, separated shoulder, and a collapsed lung.

Hinton, then a senior in high school, saw his football career come to an end. He spent two months in a wheelchair and was absent from school for four months while he rehabilitated. While he missed football, he found it tougher to be out of his school routine and away from his friends. Gilmore, meanwhile, spent two weeks in a Lexington Hospital and was absent from school until January. The accident caused him to lose more than 40 pounds, and a lot of strength. However, Gilmore managed to go through rehabilitation and strength training, eventually packing 235 pounds on his six-foot-four frame.

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August 22, 2013

University of Kentucky May Be Part of Woeful Trend of Failing to Hold Doctors Accountable

USA Today investigation found a disturbing lack of accountability for doctors nationwide, and Kentucky is likely no exception. The investigation found that state medical boards allow doctors to keep practicing medicine even after findings of serious misconduct. From 2001 to 2011, as many as 6,000 doctors had clinical privileges restricted or were barred from practicing in certain hospitals, but retained unblemished licenses. Of the 800 doctors with the most malpractice actions, fewer than one in five faced license suspension or restriction.

operation-1389104-m.jpgThe University of Kentucky Chandler Medical Center may be among those who should take a closer look. One recent article noted that although the University of Kentucky ranks high on the list of U.S. News and World Report, it has fared badly on other lists related to patient care. Consumer Reports gave Chandler Medical Center just a 47 out of 100 for patient safety, as well as low marks for surgical complications. Likewise, the Leapfrog Group, a hospital safety group, gave Chandler Medical Center a "C" compared to the higher grades it gave other area hospitals, like St. Joseph East.

One reason for Chandler Medical Center's failings is its policy of nondisclosure. For instance, it recently filed a lawsuit against a medical reporter who submitted an open records request. If no one on the outside knows how serious its problems are, no one can hold it sufficiently accountable. The situation is such that one family was advised to get treatment at the University of Michigan, due to its policy of full disclosure and thus its superior care. Chandler Medical Center's lack of disclosure may be traced to decisions by the hospital's board of trustees, rather than federal privacy laws or other claims.

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August 15, 2013

Kentucky Law Enforcement Officials to Participate in the "Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over" Campaign

Car accidents are the leading cause of death in the United States. Kentucky law enforcement officials are trying to do something about that, at least where drunk driving is concerned. Kentucky State Police, Louisville Metro Police, and other metropolitan police agencies are combining with the Kentucky Office of Highway Safety for the campaign "Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over." The campaign runs until after Labor Day.

police-car---louisville-kentuc-240373-m.jpgThe "Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over" campaign is part of a nationwide crackdown on drunk driving. In 2012, Kentucky alone experienced 5,750 car accidents related to alcohol, which resulted in 3,000 injuries and 146 deaths. During last year's Labor Day weekend alone, 388 were injured and nine killed, with two of the deaths directly linked to alcohol.

Kentucky law enforcement officials therefore have a multi-pronged plan for combating alcohol abuse this year. One part will be to stage a comprehensive advertising campaign about the dangers of drunk driving. Mothers Against Drunk Driving have set up a booth at the 4th Street Live news conference to discuss problems like underage drinking. Both Yellow Cab and the Transit Authority of River City have agreed to advertise on vehicles that travel around Louisville.

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August 8, 2013

Kentucky Nursing Home Patients Are Moving to Ohio Due to a Shortage of Beds

An unfortunate trend is taking place that speaks poorly of Kentucky nursing home care: the state's nursing home population is moving out of state, to Ohio.

im-still-mobile-1114180-m.jpgKentucky nursing homes suffer a shortage of beds, forcing elderly residents to move north of the Ohio River. The result has been that Ohio taxpayers end up shouldering the cost of Kentucky residents covered by Medicaid, which pays for only 60% of their care. That means that Ohio residents might pay up to $6 million each year. Statistics show that as many as 90% of elderly Kentucky Medicaid patients left the state in 2011, a number that is likely to increase.

Beds are limited in Kentucky nursing homes due to a state mandate that nursing homes undergo a "certificate of need" process, designed to keep Medicaid costs low and ensure that supply is on par with demand. However, the actual result of this practice has been that many Kentucky nursing homes have far fewer beds than people who need them. Three counties in northern Kentucky have only 1,500 beds certified for Medicaid patients, compared to four counties around Cincinnati, which have 12,000 beds for Medicaid patients. Ohio does not require a certification process.

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May 10, 2013

Children on Summer Vacation can Mean More Injuries on Amusement Rides

The June 2007 amusement park accident at Kentucky Kingdom in Louisville that severed a young girl's feet brought national attention to the safety of amusement park rides. Ever since the accident, her parents have been lobbying the federal government for stricter control over amusement park rides. However, even if laws are passed requiring more oversight of the nation's theme parks, it may not cover some of the other rides that kids encounter.

There are basically three types of amusement rides. "Fixed rides" are those found in amusement parks. They are built on a particular site and never move. "Mobile rides" are taken to carnivals and festivals for a week or two, then are partially disassembled and moved to another location. The last category is "mall rides," which is fairly self-explanatory. These smaller rides are sprinkled throughout malls and grocery stores as entertainment for kids who have been dragged along on a shopping trip. The last two categories of rides are generally tamer than those found at permanent amusement parks, but they can still lead to injury.

One of the leading causes of injuries on mobile rides is the very fact that they are mobile. The constant taking down and putting back up allows for plenty of opportunities for something to be incorrectly installed. It also creates additional wear and tear on certain components of a ride. Mall rides, which are generally geared toward very young children are dangerous simply because they seem so safe. Unsuspecting parents may put their child on a ride without even noticing there is no safety belt to keep the child in place or realizing that their child will hit a very hard floor if they do fall off.

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April 20, 2013

$90 Million Nursing Home Neglect Judgment Being Challenged

In 2010, a man filed a nursing home neglect lawsuit against a West Virginia nursing home following the death of his mother in 2009. The woman stayed at the facility for 19 days, during which time she allegedly fell several times, was not given enough food or water, and lost 15 pounds. She died 18 days later in Hospice. Based on the information presented during trial, the jury awarded the woman's estate $91.5 million.

Attorneys for the nursing home asked to have the amount reduced based on a state law that caps non-economic medical malpractice awards at $500,000, but the victim's attorney argued that nursing homes were not covered by the award cap law. The judge ultimately decided the medical malpractice cap did apply to a small portion of the award and reduced it to $90.5 million. After the verdict and award reduction, defense attorneys still requested a new trial, arguing that the company's finances were grossly misrepresented during the trial, making it look like its income was much greater than it really is. But the circuit judge denied their request for a new trial, and the case is now headed to the West Virginia Supreme Court.

The defense is hoping to convince the high court that the nursing home is covered by the Medical Professional Liability Act (MPLA), which was enacted in West Virginia in 1986 and amended in 2002 in response to a lack of malpractice coverage available to medical professionals in the state. This law limits the amount a victim can be awarded for non-economic damages in a medical malpractice case. Ever since MPLA was enacted there has much debate on whether or not nursing homes are covered since they are not necessarily medical professionals. The State of West Virginia is in the process of passing a new amendment that specifically includes nursing homes under the MPLA, which proponents of the bill say is what was intended when the original bill was passed over 20 years ago.

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March 14, 2013

Court to Decide if Generic Drug Makers can be Held Liable for Dangerous Drug Injuries

Almost 80% of all prescriptions in the U.S. are filled with generic medications. These medications can be offered at a lower price than brand-name drugs because the companies that manufacture the generic versions have not invested millions of dollars in the creation and testing of them. Once a patent expires on a drug, other companies can begin to manufacture and sell a generic version of it without getting FDA approval, provided the formula and labeling are not altered in any way.

Such was the case with sulindac, a generic anti-inflammatory drug similar to ibuprofen. Mutual Pharmaceutical Company in Pennsylvania, a subsidiary of another company based in India, was manufacturing sulindac in 2004 when a New Hampshire woman went to her doctor with shoulder pain. He prescribed a clinoril, a mild anti-inflammatory, and she was given sulindac as a generic equivalent. A few weeks after she started taking the drug, her skin began to come off. She ended up losing two-thirds of her skin, requiring a lengthy stay in a hospital burn unit. She also suffered esophagus and lung damage and ended up legally blind. She is now only 53 years old.

As with many other victims of dangerous drugs, the woman filed a lawsuit against the drug manufacturer in the hopes of receiving some compensation for her injuries and suffering. A jury awarded her $21 million, an amount which was also upheld by the Court of Appeals. Now the Supreme Court will hear the case. Groups on both sides of the dangerous and defective drugs argument will be awaiting the higher court's decision.

This would seem to some to be an open-and-shut case. A woman was seriously and permanently injured by a drug manufactured by a pharmaceutical company, and she should be compensated for these injuries. However, the fact that the drug was generic plays a large part in the case. In past cases, generic drug manufacturers have been protected by the higher courts. Why would the higher courts side with the manufacturers? Because generic drug manufacturers are required to reproduce the drug and its corresponding warning labels exactly like the brand-name version. Therefore, according to the courts, they cannot be held accountable for any injuries that occur because they are not responsible for the makeup of the drug or its corresponding labels and warnings.

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March 6, 2013

Two Recent Kentucky Car Accidents on I-65 Leave Six Dead, Injure Several Others

Some erratic snowfalls have caused several car accidents in and around Kentucky in the last few weeks. But while there may have been a few flurries in the air, two recent multi-car crashes on I-65 near Elizabethtown do not appear to have been caused by weather.

According to Kentucky State Police, on Saturday, March 2, 2013, a commercial truck driver was driving too close behind a passenger vehicle and the truck crashed into the back of vehicle, causing it to catch fire. Six of eight family members in the SUV tragically died in the fire. The two survivors were foster children of two of the adults killed, and they were taken to the hospital with serious injuries. The accident occurred on the northbound side of I-65.

About 15 minutes after the northbound truck accident, another accident occurred in the same place in the southbound lanes. Another semi crashed into the back of one car, and hit another car that in turn hit a third car, resulting in a four-vehicle accident. The driver of the first car hit was the drummer of country singer Kellie Pickler. He was transported to a local hospital for treatment of extensive injuries. Two of the other drivers were also injured.

If the weather was not to blame, what caused these three very similar accidents? Officials do not know for sure, but they have a couple theories. Kentucky State Police think distracted driving could have played a part in the first accident. The truck driver that hit the SUV may have been on his phone or paying attention to something else in his cab, and he didn't see the SUV in time to stop. It would be sadly ironic if the trucker was on his phone at the time of the crash, because this stretch of I-65 is where a truck hit a van and killed 11 people in 2010. That accident led to the National Transportation Safety Board's request to make talking on a cell phone or texting against the law for long-distance commercial drivers. Investigators are also checking the driver's log to see how long he had been driving and if he had taken the amount of break time required by law. A blood sample was taken as well.

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February 28, 2013

Kentucky Nursing Home Fined by Federal Government for Resident Neglect and Fraud

Entities have been defrauding the U.S. federal government since the Civil War in 1861. During the war, it was discovered that businessmen were selling defective weapons, sick horses and spoiled food to the government for the soldiers in both the North and the South. To combat these issues, the False Claims Act was enacted in 1863. After several revisions, this act still remains in effect today and is used in cases ranging from businesses fraudulently trying to collect money from the government to manufacturers selling bad products because they were not tested according to government standards.

Health care issues are a frequent cause of cases filed under the False Claims Act, and a case against a Kentucky nursing home that recently settled is a good example of this. Villaspring Health Care and Rehabilitation is a nursing home located in Erlanger, Kentucky. Like most nursing homes, it receives payment for many of the services it supposedly provides from the government through Medicare and Medicaid. However, in 2011, the federal government filed a claim stating that the nursing home was fraudulently collecting money from it.

According to the complaint, the nursing home in question should not have been submitting their bills to Medicare and Medicaid because the care they were providing their nursing home residents was substandard. How substandard? Five people allegedly died at the facility between 2004 and 2008 and more were injured because of the nursing home's negligence and insufficient care. The case, which was recently settled, is the first of its kind filed against a Kentucky nursing home under the False Claims Act. Advocates for improving care at nursing homes hope that this case and other future ones like it will improve the care at nursing homes and lessen the amount of abuse and neglect that occurs in Kentucky.

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February 20, 2013

What the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act Means to Kentucky Residents

Because of the slow economy, many Kentuckians have lost their jobs and the health insurance that came with their employment. Their unemployment has also left them unable to purchase their own health insurance, which leaves them uncovered. So what happens if they have a medical emergency and have to go to the hospital?

Thanks to the federal government, in many emergency situations hospitals are not allowed to refuse treatment because of the patient's inability to pay. The Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) was enacted in 1986, and has been revised throughout the years. The basic premise is that if someone has a medical emergency and that their health is rapidly declining or their life is at stake, the medical facility they go to has to treat them, even if they cannot pay. This act also covers women who are in active labor. The treating hospital decides what constitutes a medical emergency, and some hospitals may attempt to find some reason to avoid treating someone who is not able to pay so they are not stuck with unpaid debt. Other hospitals will treat even if they think it is not an emergency so that they do not have to worry about negative consequences if the patient's condition worsens because of non-treatment, such as a medical malpractice or wrongful death lawsuit.

In a recent case in Louisiana, a man went to one hospital after suffering a heart attack. He had a procedure to unblock one of his arteries, but it was decided that he needed a heart transplant. While waiting for the transplant, a device was to be implanted at a different hospital to help keep him alive. He was transported to the other hospital for the surgery, then was told they wouldn't perform the surgery because he didn't have a way to pay for it. In the interim, the patient's health declined, and he eventually passed away. His family members have filed a wrongful death suit against the hospital claiming they should have done the procedure regardless of his ability to pay because the victim's life depended on it.

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February 16, 2013

Health Inspections Find Numerous Issues at Most Massachusetts Compounding Facilities

1285558_injection_needle_macro_2.jpgIn 2012, hundreds of people became ill and 46 people died as a result of tainted medication. The problem was traced back to a compounding facility in Massachusetts that has since closed. Steroid injections given to people with back pain had been contaminated and caused a meningitis outbreak that affected patients in 20 states. Shortly after the source of the outbreak was discovered, the Massachusetts Department of Health started doing surprise health inspections at the other compounding facilities across the state. Their findings, released in February 2013, were surprising and a little scary.

Inspectors visited 37 of these specialty pharmacies and discovered deficiencies at all but four of them. That means there were issues at 33 of the companies. Of this number, 11 had violations so serious that at least parts of their operations were temporarily shut down. One company voluntarily surrendered its license, and the other 21 had more minor violations and were allowed to stay open. Officials were quick to point out that this is not a one-state issue; Massachusetts just happens to be the one state that did these inspections. Some states don't even require their compounding facilities to comply with the guidelines checked by the inspectors in Massachusetts.

While none of the problems discovered were as bad as those found at the facility that caused the outbreak, it is still good that the issues were found and will be corrected. The state has dedicated funds to pay for more routine inspections of compounding pharmacies, and hopefully other states will follow in its footsteps.

Many victims of the meningitis outbreak have filed product liability lawsuits against the now-defunct compounding pharmacy, and the families of some of the victims who died have filed wrongful death claims. But because the company is no longer in business, it is unclear how much anyone would be awarded. Some of the victims may have also filed medical malpractice claims against the medical personnel that administered the tainted injections, but it remains to be seen if any of them will be held accountable.

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February 8, 2013

Proposed Bill Would Require Board Review of Kentucky Nursing Home Lawsuits

Kentucky nursing home abuse and neglect is far too prevalent already. Numerous residents throughout the Commonwealth suffer from bedsores, malnutrition, dehydration, and injuries from improper handling and medication errors. Now the Senate Health and Welfare Committee has approved a proposed bill that may make it harder for victims to file personal injury or wrongful death lawsuits against nursing homes.

Senate Bill 9 would require that any potential nursing home injury or wrongful death lawsuit be heard by a three-person medical panel before it could proceed in court. The panel would be created by both parties, with each party selecting one person and the third being agreed upon by both. The board's findings would then be admissible in court.

While this seems fair at first, there are foreseeable problems with this arrangement. First, it prolongs the amount of time it takes for a victim to be compensated for injuries or an estate to be compensated for the death of a loved one. Many families need this compensation sooner rather than later for medical bills or funeral expenses. Second, the medical professionals chosen by the victim and by both sides together may still be partial to the nursing home. Some may cast their votes against the victims to ensure that they are not blacklisted at the nursing home and unable to provide services there. There is no financial or professional benefit to being a proponent for a victim of nursing home abuse or neglect.

This seems to be a no-win situation for those who have suffered in a Kentucky nursing home. But there is perhaps a positive side to it. If by chance the medical board would rule in favor of the victim, this information could be very beneficial to the case. Having at least two out of three experts stating the resident's injuries were caused by the nursing home would make it hard for another expert to dispute in court.

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January 30, 2013

How to Avoid Dog Bites in Kentucky

Dogs are wonderful companions for adults and children alike. They offer unconditional love and are happy to see you when you come home. But what some people sometimes forget is that they are still animals and, as a result, they can be unpredictable. Two recent cases, one right here in Kentucky, illustrate this point.

On January 9, 2013, three children were playing at a home in Henderson, Kentucky. The kids were getting a little crazy, which riled up the dog living at the home, so the owner told the kids to calm down. The kids calmed down, and the dog appeared to calm down too. But when one of the children began staring at the dog, the dog attacked him, biting off his nose and swallowing it. After the dog was euthanized, the vet was able to retrieve the boy's nose and surgeons reattached it. The owner said he had owned the dog for a long time and he had never been aggressive before.

In the same week in New Athens, Illinois, a young girl was attacked by two dogs as she and her friend were walking. She suffered bites to multiple parts of her body. What is even more disturbing about this attack is that the dogs were owned by the town's former police chief, and one of the dogs was a trained police dog. That may leave some wondering how any dog can be trusted if even a trained police dog can attack without warning.

The fact of the matter is that you should never trust a dog 100%. Even the gentlest, calmest dog can have a bad moment that could end with someone being bitten. The American Kennel Club offers these tips to avoid dog bite injuries:

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