Archive for the ‘Verdicts’ Category

Yamaha Rhino goes to court in Georgia – not happy with verdict!

June 3, 2010

When the weather is warm, outdoor activities are the amusement. Expecting them to end in injury usually isn’t the case!

In Gwinnett County, GA, Roger McTaggart was injured in 2007 while riding his Yamaha Rhino recreational utility vehicle. Mr. McTaggart and his wife, Glenda, sued Yamaha Motor Corporation USA, which happens coincidentally to be located in Gwinnett County.

The McTaggart’s case is just one of over 100 cases that allege the Rhino recreational vehicles are unsafe. The Rhino vehicles are alleged to have latent stability defects which cause the vehicles to unexpectedly roll over.

Similarly, the McTaggart’s claimed early in their case that the stability defect caused Mr. McTaggart to unexpectedly roll his vehicle at a low speed and on relatively flat ground.

McTaggart was driving his Rhino and stopped the vehicle. He then starting going forward again and turned the steering wheel to the right, “and the Rhino tipped onto the driver’s side, trapping his leg under the vehicle,” according to McTaggart’s complaint.

McTaggart sustained a “crush” injury in which the “skin exploded” and bone was exposed, Childers said.

Mr. and Mrs. McTaggart also argued that the recreational vehicle should include a barrier which would keep the rider’s legs inside the vehicle. Yamaha rebutted the argument, claiming that doors for the vehicle were produced and added three the four months after Mr. McTaggart’s leg injury.

During the two week trial, all experts, including plaintiffs, concluded that the accident could only have happened while Mr. McTaggart was riding on a side incline, not on an relatively flat and uneven surface. Counsel for the McTaggart’s focused arguments on the fact that had the vehicle contained doors,  Mr. McTaggart’s legs would not have been injured when the unexpectedly vehicle rolled over.

After 10 hours of deliberation, a Gwinnett County jury awarded $317,002 to the plaintiffs. Compensation included pain and suffering, medical expenses, lost wages, future lost wages and loss of consortium for Mrs. McTaggart. The plaintiffs’ attroney, Andrew Childres, claimed that the jury was swayed by Yamaha’s lack of performance testing on the Rhino recreational vehicle, with particular focus on “occupant containment”.

Yamaha claims that the company is upset by the verdict and there is a chance for appeal in the Gwinnett County case. The well known motor-sport company further states:

[We are]…saddened whenever anyone is injured in a Yamaha product-related accident, and we urge all our customers to follow the safety recommendations on our products and, as importantly, to always operate the products in a safe and responsible manner.

As we enter the summer months, it is important to remember that safety is the number one key to outdoor activities. When operating motor vehicles, of any kind, be sure to heed all safety precautions to ensure safe amusement.

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Connecticut Jury Awards Smoker $8 Million Against Tobacco Co.

June 3, 2010

Despite the national headlines over the past decade or more regarding tobacco litigation, the state of Connecticut had never before seen a successful product liability action against a tobacco company. That is, until Barbara Izzarelli recently prevailed in her case against tobacco giant R.J. Reynolds. Law.com recently reported that a federal jury awarded Ms. Izzarelli $8 million as compensation for larynx cancer that she developed at age 36 and which she contended was caused by smoking R.J. Reynolds cigarettes for more than twenty years.

The case focused on R.J. Reynolds’ marketing strategy, primarily the company’s alleged efforts to specifically target the teen market back in the 1970’s when Ms. Izzarelli was a teenager and first began to smoke. Her attorneys, led by David Golub of the law firm of Silver, Golub & Teitell, alleged that R.J. Reynolds conducted marketing research on the smoking habits of youths as young as twelve and implemented various business practices directed at luring young people to cigarettes.

[Golub] contended that in the 1970s, after young smokers were attracted to flip-top boxes in which Philip Morris’ Marlboro cigarettes were sold, R.J. Reynolds developed new products to appeal to 14- to 20-year-olds. Golub further argued that those cigarettes were sold in popular teen hang-outs and at reduced prices.

While the jury found in Ms. Izzarelli’s favor, it did not absolve her completely of her own conduct in choosing to smoke for more than twenty years. The original verdict had been $13.6 million, but the jury found that Ms. Izzarelli was 42% at fault so the verdict was reduced to $8 million (Connecticut recognizes the doctrine of comparative negligence, meaning that a jury award can be reduced depending on whether, and to what extent, the plaintiff was negligent.). Still to be decided is the issue of whether R.J. Reynolds should be subjected to punitive damages, i.e., a monetary award intended to punish the company and deter others from engaging in similar conduct. Should punitive damages be assessed, the total award could potentially be as high as $24 million.

For Ms. Izzarelli, who will soon turn 50, this verdict was a long time coming. She was originally diagnosed with larynx cancer in 1996. She filed suit eleven years ago in 1999. According to her attorneys, she is currently “very disabled” and is unable to breathe through her nose or mouth. She instead uses a tube inserted in her throat. Because of her injuries, her diet is restricted to soft foods. Despite these limitations, Mr. Golub calls her “a remarkable woman to overcome these health problems and lead a normal life as much as she can.”

Despite the decade-long efforts to seek redress for her injuries, the verdict and the jury award are still not final. According to David Howard, a spokesperson for R.J. Reynolds, the company has promised to appeal the verdict.

“We’re disappointed in the decision in this matter,” said Howard. “We have several grounds for appeal and we are confident in our defenses going forward.”

Early comments by the defense indicate that R.J. Reynolds will challenge the trial court allegedly denying it the right to put on a ‘full medical defense’ in which Reynold intended to show that it was improbable that the plaintiff’s injuries were related to her smoking. The second issue mentioned post-verdict was the perceived error by the trial judge allowing “all youth marketing evidence despite the fact that, before trial, one of the plaintiff’s claims was dismissed because there was no evidence that the plaintiff was affected by any quote, unquote youth marketing.”

We will keep you posted on any developments in this case.

A Social Networking Lesson for Parents: Think twice before you hit ‘send’!

June 2, 2010

It’s amazing how people continue to find new ways to get into trouble with social networking.

Photo by Davin Lesnick

Just a few years ago, a parent might get into trouble with his or her teenager by reading the teenager’s diary. Such domestic misdeeds seem almost quaint by comparison to what some parents are now doing on the Internet.

As reported by the ABA Journal and others, a mother in Arkansas has been convicted of harassing her own teenage son via the popular social networking site Facebook. While the mother and her teenage son had an admittedly difficult relationship before this (the teenager had lived with his grandmother for years), the teen never suspected that his mother would go to such lengths in her ongoing battle with him.

Denise New logged onto her son’s personal Facebook account after the teenager apparently left his account open on his computer. Perhaps many parents can appreciate the temptation of peering into their children’s online activities given such an opportunity. This mother, however, was not motivated by concern over her son’s well-being or even simple curiosity. Instead, Ms. New intended to post phony messages on his site purporting to come from him. For example, after the two got into a physical altercation and the police got involved, the mother posted a message on her son’s Facebook account (again pretending she was her son) essentially bragging that he had intentionally started the fight and called the police on his mother. Cell phone messages played in court corroborated that the mother was posting such phony messages. In other messages left on his site, the mother expressed regret at ever having a child and repeatedly used foul language. Putting all of this together, the court found that this conduct constituted harassment of the teenager. The mother was sentenced to 30 days in jail (suspended) along with probation and parenting classes.

As a reminder to all of us in this new world of social networking, the trial judge offered some sage advice:

“We live in a world now where what used to be said between two people or in a parking lot, now you hit a button and hundreds, maybe millions, of people can hear what you do,” he said. “It makes it maybe even more important for a person to think before they act because the amplification can be tremendous.” (Source: Arkansas Online)

Like it or not, we all now have the ability to broadcast information — even highly personal information — to the world.  Apparently, some of us are still struggling with deciding what information should be broadcast and what should be kept to ourselves.

IV infiltration leads to $1.5 million verdict when patient loses thumb.

May 29, 2010

Recent news from Georgia (where the state’s cap on non-economic damages was recently overturned): A patient, Johnnie Jackson, age 47, was awarded $1.5 million for pain and suffering in addition to recovery of his medical expenses, for injuries he sustained when delay in treating an infiltration of his IV ultimately led to the loss  of his thumb.

Mr Jackson presented to Coffee Regional Medical Center for complications resulting from a pancreatic condition on April 30, 2005. Mr. Jackson had a known history of diabetes and chronic pancreatitis.

Upon presentation, a nurse administered Phenergan and Demerol through an IV, which had been inserted into Mr. Jackson’s right wrist. At approximately 3:00 a.mm on the morning of May1, Mr. Jackson complained of swelling and pain at the site of the IV causing it to be removed 45 minutes later.

After nine hours of complaints, Mr. Jackson was examined by his physician, who found that the medications had leaked into the surrounding tissues. Mr. Jackson’s physician elevated the arm in a failed attempt to reduce the swelling. On the afternoon of May 2, Mr. Jackson was transported to the South Georgia Medical Center for advanced treatment.

A pretrial order revealed that Mr. Jackson was transported to  the medical center for the treatment of a blood clot that was found near his thumb.  During Mr. Jackson’s 24 day admission at the medical center, he underwent a multiple surgeries by an orthopedic surgeon, who was unable to salvage Mr. Jackson’s thumb.

Mr. Jackson’s attorney, Laura Shamp, filed suit against Coffee Regional and five treating nurses in 2007 alleging that Mr. Jackson was unable to work due to frequent hospitalizations caused by diabetes and pancreatitis, but that:

…the hospital gave him a ‘job’ of living without his thumb for the rest of his life, so he should be paid for it.

“Their defense was that the IV did not infiltrate and that even if it did, that was not what caused the loss of his thumb,” said Shamp. “They said it was simply that strange things happen and this was a coincidental blood clot that ended up contributing clotting at the same time.”

With the plaintiff’s permission, the named nurses were dismissed with the hospital remaining as the sole defendant. The Coffee County jury awarded Mr. Jackson $53,026 for medical expenses and $1.5 million for pain and suffering.

Wife suffers second-hand asbestos exposure from husband’s clothes. CA jury awards her huge verdict.

May 28, 2010

Bobby Evans was a loyal employee of the Los Angeles County Department of Water and Power (DWP) for nearly 25 years. Little did he know, he was exposing his wife to second-hand asbestos.

Rhoda Evans, wife of retired DWP worker Bobby Evans, was diagnosed with mesothelioma after years of washing Mr. Evans’ clothing that had been coated daily in asbestos fibers. For nearly 25 years, Mr. Evans unknowingly worked cutting cement water pipes that contained asbestos and brought these dangerous fibers home with him on his clothing. Certain Teed Corporation, the supplier of the asbestos cement pipes, neglected to warn consumers of the risks in using their products containing harmful substances.

Certain Teed Corporation had known about the risk factors of working with asbestos materials since the 1960’s, yet never placed warning labels on their products until 1985. By 1985, it was too late for Rhoda Evans, who now suffers from  a life-threatening, incurable cancer.

Mrs. Evan filed suit against the Certain Teed Corporation with the following accusations:

Certain Teed actually concealed the risk of asbestos exposure from DWP officials “in an effort to protect the $40 million in annual revenues the company made on selling asbestos-containing cement pipe to the county.”

The LA Department of Water and Power was also held partially responsible for the compensatory portion of the award for its failure to adequately protect Bobby Evans on the job.

Mrs. Evans was awarded $8.8 million for compensatory damages and an additional $200 million to be paid by the Certain Teed Corporation for punitive damages.  Attorney’s for the Corporation feel that the punitive damages award is unconstitutional and plan to appeal the verdict.

Since 1929, an estimate of 600,000 lawsuit have been filed for mesothelioma and asbestos disease. Whether the punitive damage award is lessened in the case of Mrs. Evans is unknown; however, it is expected to encourage manufacturers to settle such cases out of court, as opposed to trying them before a jury. Hopefully, this message sent by the jury will resonant among the manufacturing community as well: if you are aware of potential dangers to the users of your product, you better warn people about that danger while you are taking pr0active steps to correct it!

Medical Malpractice:woman awarded $3.5 Million for paraplegia after graft surgery.

May 19, 2010

53 year old Victoria Little, of Harford County, MD, walked into the hospital to have  surgery wearing four inch heel, but when the surgery was over, she was left a paraplegic unable to walk. Ms. Little underwent a grafting procedure in 2007 for blocked arteries.

Ms. Little filed suit in 2008 claiming that Dr. Rodger Schneider and Dr. Mark Gonze, partners and surgeons of Vascular Surgery Associates, used an improper grafting technique. Plaintiff’s counsel, two good friends of ours, Jim Cardea and Scott Kurlander,  argued that the procedure led to blood loss and damage to Ms. Little’s spinal cord, which left her a paraplegic.

The Baltimore Sun reported that after hearing all arguments and nine hours of deliberation, the jury awarded Ms. Little $1.3 million for non-economic damages, $2 million for future medical costs and over $200,00 for prior medical bills.

Attorney for the defendants, E. Phillip Franke, III, claimed that Ms. Little  simply had a poor outcome and that her injuries wee not the result of malpractice. The defense is currently reviewing the case for appeal. In light of Maryland’s cap on non-economic damages (e.g. pain and suffering) we expect that in the interim that the award will be reduced.

Harford County has traditionally been viewed as a conservative jurisdiction and not plaintiff-friendly. Well, the good people of Harford County got it right! Congratulations, Scott and Jim!

Medical Malpractice: Newborn Carbon Dioxide Poisoning Results in Verdict of $16.5 Million

May 19, 2010

Dwight Peterson, Army Staff Sgt., and his wife Shalay presented to Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu, HI for an elective cesarean section in January of 2005. Their son Izzy was born a healthy child, but now requires 24 hour care.

The Star Bulletin reported that within just one minute after the birth of Izzy Peterson, pediatrician Army Major Danielle Bird mistakenly administered carbon dioxide, used for stomach surgery, to the healthy newborn. It was not until nearly 42 minutes had passed, and the carbon dioxide tank was almost empty that someone realized this tragic error. Oxygen was supplemented, but by the time this intervention was attempted, Izzy had sustained irreversible brain damage.

Soon after Izzy’s birth, the Peterson family relocated to San Antonio, TX where they have obtained specialized care for Izzy. Izzy is fed through a gastrostomy tube and breathes through a tracheostomy, which he will do for the rest of his life.

Rick Fried, the Peterson’s attorney, filed suit in which it was alleged that Major Bird, a pediatrician doing her fellowship in neonatology, should have noted the difference between the carbon dioxide and oxygen tanks prior to administration. You think?!

Bird…would have had to adjust the upright regulator of the free-standing cylinder clearly labeled carbon dioxide, different from the clocklike regulator attached to oxygen tanks…

Attorneys for the defense tried to claim early on that Izzy had been born with some type of defect; an at-home video of Izzy’s birth as a healthy baby boy proved otherwise.

“You see him take his hand, trying to brush it (the carbon dioxide) away,” Fried said. “Even at birth he knew it wasn’t good for him.”

Although severely brain damaged, Izzy maintains self awareness, can track movement with his eyes and recognizes and responds to his parents. Izzy can feel pain and kick a ball, but will never perform as an average child.

Not present for the decision, the Petersons were informed that federal judge, David Ezra, ruled in favor of the family. Dwight and Shalay Peterson were awarded $16.5 million, which will help to pay for Izzy’s extensive medical care.

Tripler’s Maj. Gen. Carla Halwey-Bowland said in a news release: “Tripler Army Medical Center accepts responsibility for this tragic incident and respects the decision made by the Honorable David Ezra. Our command and well-trained staff are committed to doing whatever it takes to ensure an incident similar to this never happens again, such as improvements in medical gas safety — how they are labeled and handled and staff education.”

Tripler Army Medical Center is the largest Army hospital in the Pacific basin. It contains over 200 hospital beds and provides medical care to almost 400,000 eligible patients. The Medical Center is accredited with providing the best medical care in it’s region, but even in the best hospitals, mistakes can be made.

Semi-Paralyzed from a Steroid Injection earns FL Woman $36 Million

May 14, 2010

Kathleen Ramey presented to Dr. Andrew Weiss, a pain management specialist, for a steroid injection in September of 2000 after having been in a motor vehicle collision. Believing she would leave pain free and on the road to recovery, Ms. Ramey got anything but that result.

The injection left Ms. Ramey with a four inch hole in her spinal cord, which according to the report of The Palm Beach Post, left Ms. Ramey suffering constant pain and with a disfigured right arm. A Palm Beach County jury awarded Ms. Ramey $23.6 million; her husband was awarded an additional $13 million in damages.

Apparently, Dr. Weiss did not put up a very strong defense. In fact, he was not even at the trial. Moreover, he did not have any legal representation on his behalf in the courtroom.

Why in the world would that be, and where was he? The Palm Beach Post advises, “He is in the midst of serving a 12-year federal prison sentence after pleading guilty in 2006 to four counts of illegally distributing oxycodone. His state medical license has been revoked.”

I’ve heard of ‘paper judgments’ before, but this story is truly tragic on so many levels. One of those is not the incarceration of Dr. Weiss. Though Ms. Ramey won her case, it could be a long time (if ever) before she sees any compensation for her horrible injuries.

Fatal Plastic Surgery Case Results in $3.1 Million Settlement, but Jury Returns Verdict in Favor of Non-Settling Anesthesiologist

May 12, 2010

In March of 2005, Kathleen Cregan left her home in Limerick, Ireland to embark on a journey to the United States. She was heading to New York where she underwent a face lift by Dr. Michael Sachs. Wanting this surgery to be a surprise for her husband, she had told him that she was leaving home for a few days to attend a business course in Dublin.

Just hours after the completion of the face lift procedure, Ms. Cregan collapsed in the clinic bathroom from a blood clot that had formed overnight, which had passed from her pharynx into her trachea. Ms. Cregan quickly developed breathing problems and went into cardiac arrest, which resulted in brain damage.  Ironically, as the New York Times reported, Ms. Cregan later died on Saint Patrick’s Day.

Her family sued Dr. Sachs, as well as an anesthesiologist, Dr. Subbaro,  and a nurse, Susan L. Alonzo-Francisco, who were part of the medical team, for malpractice in State Supreme Court in Manhattan.

Dr. Sachs’s settled his portion of the lawsuit for $2.1 million last month. The case involving the nurse, Susan L. Alonzo-Francisco, was settled for $1 million on Friday. Dr. Subbaro proceeded to trial remaining steadfast that he was not negligent in his care of this patient. Even though the nurse had settled, the issue of her liability was submitted to the jury for determination.

The plaintiffs alleged that Dr. Subbaro had left the clinic and turned-over Ms. Cregan’s post-procedure care to Nurse Alonzo-Francisco, who, plaintiffs alleged, did not know how to utilize an endotracheal tube to alleviate breathing difficulties. It was also claimed that Ms. Alonzo-Francisco failed to dial 911 in a timely fashion.

The verdict: “late Friday afternoon, a six-member jury cleared [Dr. Subbaro] of responsibility in Ms. Cregan’s death. Jurors, who began deliberating on Friday morning, did not know of Ms. Alonzo-Francisco’s settlement, so they delivered verdicts exonerating her of responsibility as well. The settlement, however, will stand.”

So how did this lady, who lived on a farm in Ireland, come to be a patient of Dr. Sachs in New York?

Ms. Cregan found out about Dr. Sachs after reading an article about him in The Sunday Independent of Ireland, her family said. The article described him as “a leading cosmetic and facial reconstruction surgeon” in the United States, with a “highly confidential client list.”

But here’s what she didn’t know when she consented to his operating on her:

The article did not mention that Dr. Sachs had settled more than 30 malpractice lawsuits. But he was known as a master of generating publicity, even appearing on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” twice in the early 1990s. Dr. Sachs surrendered his license to practice medicine in 2008.

We have addressed this very issue of ‘Top Doctor’ does not necessarily mean best doctor. You simply need to do some homework on whom you are choosing to care for you or operate on you. Be an advocate for yourself – ask questions, don’t be embarrassed to do so. If  you have the time, do some research on the person you are entrusting with your health and perhaps even your life.


Former Dolphin O.J. McDuffie’s “Toe Trial” Results $11.5 Million Verdict

May 11, 2010

This from a report from Dolphins Central: In 1999, a wide receiver for the Dolphins, O.J. McDuffie, injured his toe during a game, after which he came under the care of former Dolphins’ physician, Dr. John Uribe.  What followed thereafter was a lawsuit filed in 2002 by McDuffie against Dr. Uribe claiming medical negligence by the physician.

After a multi-week trial, in which McDuffie presented evidence that, notwithstanding  demonstrable evidence of injury seen on MRI, McDuffie was cleared to play by Dr. Uribe too soon. He claimed that this ultimately led to tendon damage, subsequent surgeries and substantial financial loss as well as pain and suffering.  He retired only seven years after his career started.

The following is from Dolphins Central (note: this is directly quoted from the posting with no editorial comment by me – is it really needed?):

McDuffie played a TOEtal of 116 games for the Dolphins from 1993 to 2000, quickly becoming one of Dan Marino’s favorite targets. In 1998 he led the NFL with 90 receptions–the only Dolphin to ever lead the league in this category. McDuffie posted 415 receptions for 5,074 yards and 29 touchdowns in his career and also returned two punts for TDs.

“They jury awarded $10 million for lost earnings and $1.5 million of anguish… They were moved by the shattered dreams and career of Mr. McDuffie…

Since retirement, McDuffie hasn’t stopped. He has since founded the Catch 81 Foundation that is dedicated to raising money for children’s organizations.

I usually do not end my blogs with a quote, but for this piece, the author of this report for Dolphins Central, Matt Gullette, puts all this in some perspective – or at least his:

But it’s McDuffie’s sure hands and nimble feet that we’ll never forget. He always did have a knack for keeping us on our toes (puns-absolutely-intended).

Dare I say…. FINdication???

For a related story, see the report in JusticeNewsFlash.com