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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January 23, 2013

Huge Car and Truck Accident North of Kentucky Takes a Life, Injures Many, and Poses Questions

On Monday, January 21, 2013, a freak snowfall caused whiteout conditions on I-275, just north of the Kentucky border in Ohio. Although temperatures were below freezing, officials think the pavement was warm enough to melt the snow as it fell, then the cool air refroze it into ice. As cars began to slip and slide, other drivers coming up behind them were unable to see them in time to stop, so the cars and trucks crashed into one another. By the time it was all said and done, at least 86 cars and trucks were involved in the accident.

Unfortunately, one 12-year-old girl was killed when she exited the damaged car she had been riding in. While some might question why someone would get out of a car on a highway, she or the driver she was with were probably afraid they would get hit in their car if they stayed inside. Someone else involved in the car crash confirmed this belief, saying, "I just hopped out of the car as fast as I could and ran to the side of the road, and it wasn't even five seconds after I exited my vehicle, my car got completely smashed by the semi." At least 20 other people were also taken to the hospital with injuries.

Initial reports said the girl who lost her life was hit by a barrier cable that had snapped during the accident. This information had people wondering if this type of barrier system is more dangerous than concrete or metal barriers. According to a news report from WCPO, a Cincinnati news station, the sheriff's deputies that were at the accident site said the cable barrier had not broken. Rather, it struck the girl as it was snapping back after several cars hit it. The Ohio Department of Transportation believes the cable barriers are actually safer than concrete or metal barriers because they do not cause cars and trucks that hit them to bounce back into traffic and cause more accidents.

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January 8, 2013

Infant Recliners Recalled by Retailers, Manufacturer Refuses to Recall Product

Trying to get a young infant to sleep can be difficult and frustrating. Sleep-deprived parents often go to great lengths to get their little ones to drift off, from driving miles in the car to singing songs and pacing the floor incessantly. So when a product comes out that claims to help get babies to sleep, it can be quite appealing. One such product is the Nap Nanny, which was introduced a few years ago. The Nap Nanny is kind of a recliner for infants, which allows their heads to be slightly elevated while sleeping. The product is designed to be used only on the floor and the infant is buckled in.

The Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) is a group that monitors products and complaints to determine if products are unsafe for consumers. In July, 2010, the CPSC announced a voluntary product recall of the Nap Nanny after receiving numerous complaints about the product, including one regarding a child who died while sleeping in the product in crib. The four-month-old had managed to move herself to the edge of the recliner and suffocated between it and the crib bumper. The manufacturer recalled the product and released a new version of it with additional safety features and directions on safe usage of the product.

After the initial recall, the CPSC received reports of additional injuries and deaths to infants using the Nap Nanny. They notified the company about the issues, but the company's founder refused to recall the product. She stated that none of the subsequent injuries or deaths would have occurred if the consumers were using the product properly. Four of the five reported infant deaths occurred while the Nap Nanny was being used in a crib, which the labels on the product specifically say not to do. Several stores voluntarily recalled the infant sleepers and the CPSC has filed a complaint in an attempt to have a mandatory recall put in place. The manufacturer has also filed documents to have the complaint dismissed. In the meantime, Baby Matters, the company that makes and sells the Nap Nanny, has shut down its operations, but continues to stand by its product.

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December 20, 2012

$109 Million Awarded to Family of Electrocution Victim in Personal Injury Lawsuit

After reading this title, most people are probably amazed - or even disgusted - by the amount of money mentioned. But once a little more information is given, it may seem more reasonable. Wrongful death cases such as this one take into account many different factors that people who have never been involved in this type of lawsuit don't consider.

First, a little background. In 2009, in Pennsylvania, a woman went into her back yard to call the local power company on her cell phone after the power went out in her home. This was the third time that the power line had failed. While she was outside, the power line, which was still live, fell on her. When her mother-in-law went outside to check on her, she discovered the victim being electrocuted and burned. She went into the yard and tried to help, but was immediately injured by the electricity and was unable to help. The mother-in-law and neighbors who wanted to assist could do nothing to help the victim until the power to the line was cut off 20 to 25 minutes later. She was eventually taken to the hospital, where she succumbed to her injuries three days later.

Not only did a woman lose her life, but she suffered immense pain before her death. To make matters worse, her mother-in-law and two daughters, who were two and four at the time, saw her being burned and electrocuted. That is something these survivors will most likely remember for the rest of their lives. Her husband lost his wife, and her children lost their mother in a horrific way.

Allegedly, this was not the first time that the power line failed. Two other times their house had lost power and the husband had notified the power company of the problem. The attorney for the victim claimed that workers for the electric company had been inadequately trained in how to splice wires so that they would not rust and come apart.

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December 14, 2012

Recall Scheduled to Occur in February 2013 on Certain Honda Models

It seems as if product recalls on cars are becoming more and more common. It is hard to say whether it is because cars are not being made as well as they used to be, or if the manufacturers are trying to protect themselves and their consumers by issuing the recalls more readily. The latest big recall hasn't even officially happened yet, but it has been announced through the media.

In February 2013, Honda is scheduled to announce to the recall of over 800,000 vehicles in the U.S. and about 70,000 in other countries. In October 2012, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced that it was going to begin investigating Honda Pilots and Odysseys that were manufactured in 2003 and 2004. The investigation was prompted by the NHTSA receiving over 40 complaints regarding the vehicles. Drivers stated that the vehicles rolled away after being parked and having the keys removed. Owners of 16 of them said the only reason they stopped rolling was because they hit a stationary object such as a tree, wall, or brick mailbox. At least three vehicle owners claimed to have been injured trying to stop the rolling vehicles. Two months after the investigation was opened, Honda announced that they were going to recall 2003-2004 Honda Pilots and Odysseys, and 2003-2006 Acura MDXs.

What is causing these vehicles to roll away by themselves? It is not a brake failure as one might expect. Ignitions are designed so that the driver cannot remove the key unless the vehicle is in park. However, on the recalled models, the ignition part that prohibits the key from being removed can wear down or be damaged, allowing the key to be removed without the car being put into park. If the emergency brake has not been applied, the vehicle is free to roll away.

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December 7, 2012

Black Boxes in Cars Help Determine Cause of Kentucky Car Accidents, But Do They Infringe on Privacy?

257706_black_box_series.jpgMost of us are familiar with the "black boxes" on airplanes. Unlike the photo attached here, the black boxes on planes are small data recording devices. When a plane crashes or has to make an emergency landing, the black box on board is used to determine what went wrong by linking it to a computer and downloading its data. This is especially helpful if there are no witnesses or survivors to interview, which unfortunately happens frequently in plane crashes.

But how many of us realize that these black boxes are in many of the cars we drive? Officially called "event data recorders," these devices record dozens of different data, from the speed of the car to whether or not the driver or passengers were wearing seatbelts. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is supposed to be proposing a new regulation that would require the black boxes to be installed on all new vehicles.

NTSB has been trying to enact this rule unsuccessfully for almost a decade because people fear the black boxes will infringe on their privacy. Likening the recorders to "Big Brother," one Representative said, "Privacy is a big concern for many across America."

No matter what your beliefs are regarding the privacy issue, it is hard to deny the usefulness of having a large amount of pre-accident data available when determining what caused a car crash. In an effort to avoid fault, many drivers will stretch the truth or outright lie about how fast they were going or whether they attempted to stop or not, or they may try to place the blame on a malfunction of the car. Such was the case in a Louisville, Kentucky car crash that happened in August 2009. A man was test-driving a car at a high rate of speed when he crashed into another car and killed two people. He claimed that he was only going 60 mph before the crash, but the black box had recorded a pre-crash speed of 102 mph, more than twice the posted speed limit of 45 mph. He was found guilty of second-degree manslaughter and is currently serving a five-year sentence.

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November 29, 2012

Louisville Police Change High-Speed Chase Policy to Keep Kentucky Drivers Safer

240373_police_car_-_louisville_kentuc.jpgThe goal of all police officers is to keep the general public safe. Sometimes this means pursuing those who have committed crimes. But at what point does it become more hazardous to the public to attempt to catch the offender than letting the offender get away?

High-speed police chases have been the subject of debate for years. About the time it fades into the background, another innocent bystander or police officer is injured during the pursuit of justice. In Louisville, Kentucky, the latest victim of this type of car accident was a 31-year-old mother of three. She was on her lunch break from her job when she was killed by a driver trying to evade police in October 2012. Even though police say the high-speed chase lasted less than one minute, it was still long enough to take the woman's life.

On November 28, 2012, Steven Conrad, the Police Chief in Louisville announced a new high-speed pursuit policy to be followed by all LMPD officers. Starting December 7, 2012, officers will only be allowed to pursue at high speeds those who have committed a violent crime. This type of crime includes arson, rape, murder, robbery or kidnapping.

How does this differ from the previous policy? Before, police officers were given less guidance as to when to pursue an alleged felon at high speeds. There were rules as to the conditions of the roads and the likelihood of injuries, but who they were to pursue was a little vague. In the case mentioned above, the person being chased was allegedly involved in some type of drug crime, which by itself would not be a violent felony.

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November 20, 2012

Midland Texas Train Crash a Tragedy

One cannot look online or read a newspaper without seeing an article about the tragic accident in Midland, Texas. Numerous war veterans and their spouses were riding on a parade float being pulled by a semi-truck when it was hit by a train. Four veterans lost their lives and several other people were injured. As the victims and their families try to put their lives back together, investigators are trying to determine what caused this tragic accident.

One of the things they will examine is the train itself. Was it working properly? Did the horn sound at the appropriate time, at the right volume, for the length of time required? Were the brakes and other components of the train in working order? They will question the conductors and engineers who were on board when the train crash occurred about what they witnessed and if they noticed anything that may have contributed to the crash.

Investigators will also examine the tracks and crossing gates. Initial reports are stating that the lights were flashing and the crossing gate bells were ringing before the truck attempted to cross the tracks. But witnesses say they don't think the crossing signals and gates are activated soon enough to allow enough time for the gates to be completely down before the train crosses the intersection. News reports have discussed that the speed of the trains at this crossing has increased over the years, and maybe the gates have not been adjusted to take this change into account.

The investigators will also thoroughly investigate the truck that was pulling the float when the accident occurred. The truck was donated by a local Texas company and was driven by a fellow military veteran. The driver of the truck will be interviewed and his background will be checked to make sure he had the proper training to be driving the truck. He will most likely be asked if he heard the warning bells at the crossing or saw the flashing lights or gates. The company that owned the truck will be questioned as well.

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November 13, 2012

Latest Fatal Kentucky Drunk Driving Accident Kills Motorcyclist in Louisville

Yet another Kentuckian has lost his life to a drunk driver in a car accident this year. On November 5, 2012, a motorcyclist was rear-ended by a drunk driver while waiting for red light to change in Louisville, Kentucky. He was taken to a local hospital, but died from his injuries. The drunk driver also crashed into another car, causing it to hit a fourth vehicle. Fortunately, none of the people in these cars suffered life-threatening injuries.

What made this motorcycle accident even more horrible was the nonchalance in which the drunk driver responded to causing the crash. According to a witness, he got out of his car and demanded that someone give him a light for a cigarette. He then told police, "Just take me to jail, I'm drunk." He never once asked about the conditions of any of the people he had hit. Equally frustrating is the fact that this was not his first offense. He was convicted of DUI in 2005 and has a criminal record that includes reckless driving, marijuana possession and alcohol intoxication. This time he was charged with murder, DUI, wanton endangerment, assault, and driving without insurance.

Ideally, the penalty he receives from this latest accident would be severe enough to convince him never to drink and drive again. But this may not be the case. Despite the fact that drunk drivers injure and kill people on a daily basis, the laws and punishments do not seem to be enough to keep it from happening again. One additional way the drunk driver may be punished is if any of the injured victims or the family of the deceased victim decides to file a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit against him. They can seek compensation for lost wages, medical bills, funeral expenses, and pain and suffering, among other things. They can also request another type of compensation called punitive damages. This type of damages is meant to punish the alleged defendant for his actions in the hopes that he will not drive drunk again.

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