In this Issue — November 2009
- Smoking Verdict
In the seventh Plaintiffs’ victory in the Engle tobacco litigation case, a Florida jury has awarded $7.8 million to the husband of a woman who died of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease as a result of her addiction to cigarettes. The jury apportioned 57% of the fault to the Plaintiff, and split the remaining fault among three different Defendants: 2% to Philip Morris, 2% to Liggett Group and 39% to R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.
- University of Pittsburgh Researcher Sued Over Prostate Studies
A Washington state firm has sued the University of Pittsburgh and a former researcher claiming he fudged results on work he did to develop a prostate cancer screening test for the company. Onconome Inc. of Redmond, Washington filed the federal lawsuit in Pittsburgh. The company contends it paid Pitt University and Dr. Robert Getzenberg to find a way to test for cancer and that Getzenberg claimed to identify proteins that would let him differentiate between healthy and cancerous tissue. The suit claims that Getzenberg’s findings were “no more accurate.. than flipping a coin”.
- Passenger Search Constitutional
An Amtrak passenger’s briefcase can be detained for a dog sniff test, the 7th Circuit has ruled in reversing a U.S. District Court decision. After discovering the passenger had bought a one way train ticket in cash a short time before his trip, an Amtrak police officer concluded that he fit the profile of a typical drug courier. When the police questioned the passenger, he admitted that he was carrying $50,000 in a locked briefcase. An officer used a pocket knife to open the briefcase and discovered that it contained bundles of money. A canine unit was then brought in and the results showed the money had drug pieces on the bills. I guess the drug dealers’ plans went to the DOGS!!
- Doctor Can’t Arbitrate Malpractice Claim
A doctor can’t enforce an arbitration agreement when sued for malpractice by the family of a woman who died shortly after surgery. Some surgeons are telling patients to either sign an agreement or they won’t perform surgery. The Plaintiff was the family of a mother who died following routine gallbladder surgery performed by the surgeon. The estate alleged that the woman’s death was the result of the doctor inadvertently nicking her liver during the procedure. The Court said that forcing the patient to either sign the agreement or give up surgery when the patient needed it was unfair and invalid.
- Amputee Settles Case BIG TIME Against Landfill, Equipment Maker
A Pennsylvania man, who lost both of his legs after he was run over by a piece of heavy equipment while working in a landfill, received a $16.25 million total settlement from his employer and the manufacturer of the equipment. Scott Skirpan, 50, was working for a landfill in Easton, Northampton County, PA as a spotter for a garbage equipment company dumping their loads and compacting garbage. He was run over by a 60,000 pound Caterpillar 973 track loader and left by his fleeing co-workers without aid, according to the Plaintiffs’ mediation memorandum. Skirpan had to call 911 himself from his cell phone with both of his crushed legs trapped under the track loader. Following the accident, Skirpan’s legs were both amputated at the hip, and his right hip also had to be removed. Skirpan and his wife, Carole, sued landfill owner Chrin Brothers, Inc., other related corporate entities and the driver of the track loader on the basis that Skirpan was assigned to work in one of the landfills most dangerous jobs without any training. Also the Skirpans sued Caterpillar, Inc., on the basis that the track loader manufactured by Caterpillar lacked the safety features necessary to prevent accidents like the one that cost Skirpan his legs. The claim against Caterpillar is a product liability case.
- $30 Million For Brain-Damaged Teenager Due To Overloaded Truck
A jury awarded $30 million to Ethan Bryant, 19, and his parents after the teenager was severely injured following a deadly truck accident in August, 2006. Bryant was 16 when he and his friend Patrick Taylor drove through an intersection. A gravel truck driven by Chad McCarty was unable to stop at the intersection’s red light, and plowed into Bryant’s vehicle. The force of the impact caused the teens’ Dodge Dakota to careen about 100 feet away from the intersection. Taylor was dead at the scene and Bryant lapsed into an eight-month coma. After awakening from the coma, he developed a severe disorder limiting oxygen to the brain. He now suffers from quadriplegia and episodic seizures. The accident occurred because McCarty’s truck was overloaded past the level allowed under state vehicle regulations by nearly 20,000 pounds. As a result, the truck was unable to come to a stop at the intersection. The weight of the truck pushed him through so hard that there was no way for the driver to stop the collision.
- Jury Awards $3.8 Million For Pool Drowning
A hotel and its manager must pay $3.8 million for the 2007 drowning death of a 19 year old football player on its premises. Derrick Marshall, a standout high school receiver who was about to start workouts with the Alabama State University football team, drowned in the pool at the former King’s Inn hotel on July 29, 2007. The pool had been closed 11 days earlier by the county health department because of water turbidity. But Marshall’s family claimed that hotel workers told Marshall and other guest that they could use the pool. After Marshall disappeared in the deep end of the pool, rescuers were unable to find him for about 12 minutes because the pool water was so cloudy. EMS workers eventually pulled him from the bottom of the pool and revived him. He was hospitalized, and lingered for more than three months in a vegetative state before dying in November, 2007 at age 20. After a seven day trial, a 12 person jury deliberated only 39 minutes on August 25 before unanimously finding the hotel and its manager, Tamara Mitchell, liable for negligence and wrongful death.
- AAJ Study – Trucking Companies Violated Safety Regulations
A new report by the American Association for Justice shows that 28,000 trucking companies, operating more than 200,000 trucks on American roadways, have violated federal safety regulations. The report, which evaluated data not previously released to the public, found violations ranging from bald tires on rigs, malfunctioning brakes, and hauls that exceeded weight limits, to drivers with drug or alcohol dependencies or insufficient training. “As millions of American families pack-up to hit the road for the Labor Day holiday, most are completely unaware they share the road with trucks that are rigged for disaster.”
- Gastric Bypass Surgery Is Compensable
Gastric bypass surgery that was medically necessary to permit a knee replacement for a work-related injury to succeed is compensable, a Court has decided. An employee suffered a work-related knee injury in 1976. Over the years, he gained a significant amount of weight. He then reinjured his knee while working for another employer and gained another 30 pounds. The employee needed knee surgery, but his doctor recommended gastric surgery in order for the knee surgery to be effective. The employee had both surgeries. His insurer rejected the claim for the gastric bypass surgery. But the Court decided that the gastric bypass surgery was compensable. “The evidence…demonstrates that the bypass surgery was directed to (the employee’s) current arthritic knee condition: the surgery was performed as part of the treatment intended to ameliorate the worsening condition of (the employee’s) knee, and the weight loss was necessary to the effective treatment of (the employee’s) knee…Therefore, the claim for bypass surgery should have been allowed.”