YAZ: Birth Control Lawsuits Suggest Stronger Warning Labels Necessary

Yaz or Yasmin has now been linked to the deaths of at least 23 Canadian women, over half of which were under the age of 26.  In addition, over 600 adverse reactions to Yaz and Yasmin were reported between 2007 and February of 2013.  Although the FDA ordered clot risks to be added to some birth control labels, the drugs are still in circulation by their manufacturer, Bayer.  An estimated three in 10,000 women who have tried the “new-generation” birth control pills will develop blood clots, which are three times the risk taken by women using more traditional contraceptives, according to Health Canada.  The risk of blood clots in women taking birth controls has always been a factor; however drugs such as Yaz and Yasmin contain Drospirenone, which is a synthetic progestin that increases the risk.

Regulators are now considering ordering additional warning labels specific to the increased risks of blood clots, heart attacks, strokes and blockages in lungs or blood vessels, which can be fatal.  Bayer continues to allege that its own studies have shown no difference in blood clot risk between various birth control methods, although independent studies suggest the risk with Yaz and similar medications is slightly higher.

Over 4,000 lawsuits have been filed against Bayer arguing that any additional risk with the newer drugs should have been not only detected, but emphasized to the public.  If you or a loved one has been affected by Yaz, please contact an attorney knowledgeable in these types of mass tort claims.

GENERAL MOTORS: Cobalt Recalled for Ignition Defect Linked to Accident Deaths

On March 6, 2010, a woman dropped off her 2005 Cobalt from the dealership after experiencing a problem with the ignition shutting off while she was driving.  She had lost her power steering and brakes and had to pull over the car to restart it.  Her father insisted she take it to the dealership for repairs.  She picked it up from the dealership on March 9, 2010.  The next day, she was tragically killed when her vehicle spun out of control and sent her into the path of another vehicle.  She had suffered fatal injuries from a broken neck.  An expert examined the “black box” inside the Cobalt and discovered that three seconds prior to the accident, the key had slipped from the “on” position to the “accessory” position, shutting off her power steering and brakes and causing the fatal accident.

Now, four years later, General Motors is recalling 1.6 million cars, including the 2005 Cobalt, for problems with the ignition switch.  This problem has been linked to twelve deaths.  Although General Motors has admitted the company was aware of ignition problems prior to Brooke purchasing her car in 2005 and in fact, nearly a decade prior to issuing a recall, they only proposed an insert as a solution, rather than changing the keys, as recommended by engineers.  The insert was made available only to car owners who came in to complain about ignition shut-offs.  Under the program, fewer than 500 drivers received the inserts.  The Cobalt’s program engineering manager, stated the inserts were an “improvement, it was not a fix to the issue”.

For the victim’s father, the information that General Motors had made a “business decision” not to implement a proposed solution that would stop some ignition shut-off incidents was difficult to hear.  “I was furious that this information was known about and not taken care of before in 2005,” he said. “If it had been, my daughter would still be here and we would not be here talking about this.”  General Motors alleged that if GM had felt that changing the key was a 100 percent fix, it would have spent the money to make the change.  Testimony in the case alleged that the the victim’s car was not “unsafe” and that it “could still be maneuvered to the side of the road”.

General Motors settled the lawsuit by her estate, however would not comment on the lawsuit as a dealer lawsuit is still in progress.  The terms of the settlement with GM are confidential.



DISTRACTED DRIVING: Can a device protect my teen from texting and driving?

We have all seen the pictures.  Everyone knows of the dangers of texting and driving, yet the message doesn’t seem to be sinking in.  In 2011 alone, 3,331 people were killed in car accidents involving distracted drivers and an additional 387,000 others were injured, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.  Even though distracted driving encompasses different types of distractions, from applying makeup to fiddling to the radio to talking to passengers in the car, texting is especially dangerous.  Teens, especially believe that sending a quick text is safer than talking on the phone and a quick Facebook update is really “no big deal”.  Studies have shown that three things actually happy when a driver is distracted, even for a second.  It removes the mind from driving, removes your hands from the wheel and removes your eyes from the road.   

Talking about it isn’t enough.  Teens are being asked to make the commitment to not text and drive and, in fact, avoid distracted driving altogether, and to honor that commitment.  However, it is not always as easy as making a promise and keeping it.  Some teenagers are taking the commitment one step further and shutting off their phones in the car.  But what about those who find this a difficult commitment to make?  Others have downloaded apps to their phones which disable a smart phone while driving.  Esurance has developed a device called DriveSafe for its customers. 

DriveSafe is a device that can be inserted into the onboard diagnostics port of any non-hybrid/electric car made after 1996.  The device communicates via Bluetooth with the Esurance smartphone app and allows parents to fine-tune what their kids’ phones can do.  They can disable texting, limit cell phone use, with the exception of the ability to dial 911, and even track how a teen drives, including how fast they went, how quickly they accelerated, how hard they braked and where they went.  Basically giving full parental oversight to a teen’s driving habits.  If a teen tries to remove the device from the car, the parents receive notification.  If you are not an Esurance customer, there is a device called Cellcontrol which has many of the same features.

Will this curb the trend towards texting and driving in teenagers?  It has the potential to make a serious difference in the statistics.  If you have a teenager who drives, or know someone who does, please make sure they are aware that devices do exist to help protect their teen from the dangers of distracted driving.    

Social Networking: Is the potential cost worth the rant?

Social networking has provided us with the ability to keep in contact with old friends and relatives, as well as trusted colleagues.  It allows us to share personal and professional information easily, including photos and life events.  While this is wonderfully convenient, it is important to be cautious about what you are actually sharing on social networking.  While everyone knows that sharing photographs of a personal nature is not advisable, you must also be aware of the statements you post.  There is no expectation of privacy on social network sites, such as Facebook.  The golden rule is to avoid putting anything online that could reflect bad on your business or you personally.  You must also be aware that what you post online can actually cost you financially.

In February of 2014, a Facebook posting by his daughter cost Patrick Snay, 69, an $80,000.00 settlement he won in an age-discrimination lawsuit according to the Miami Herald.  The settlement came with a confidentiality agreement prohibiting Snay from disclosing the “terms and existence” of the settlement.  Snay’s daughter, only days after the agreement, posted to 1,200 Facebook friends that “Mama and Pap Snay wond the case against Gulliver.  Gulliver is now officially paying for my vacation to Europe this summer.  SUCK IT.”  As Snay’s daughter was a recent graduate of Gulliver, her posting, in effect, announced to current and former students that Gulliver lost the case with its former headmaster, violating the confidential terms of the settlement, and thus, rendering the settlement void, after an appeal by Gulliver to a Motion to Enforce the Settlement.

It is not just a potential settlement that can be lost through social networking, however.  There have been many stories of people losing their jobs over Facebook postings.  In May of 2013, a Chili’s waitress lost her job when she posted “Stupid cops.  Better hope I’m not their server”, with a picture of Oklahoma County deputies arriving at the restaurant.  The deputies in the photograph had spent five hours of their day volunteering on a funeral procession and the posting cost the restaurant business from the law enforcement community and the waitress her job.  Others have lost their jobs by posting about their bosses or co-workers online.  In May of 2013, a Denver employee was fired for complaining about his working conditions online after a co-worker reported his conduct.

More and more lawsuits are being compromised by postings on Facebook and other social networking sites.  For example, if you are involved in an automobile accident and like to brag on your Facebook page about speeding, that can come back to haunt you later.  Divorce cases frequently bring up social networking posts for purposes of child custody and determining the suitability of one parent.  Deleting a post doesn’t necessarily protect you either.  Through subpoenas and computer forensics, often referred to as “e-discovery”, those posts can still be retrieved and used against you in a Court of law.

The moral – don’t post anything on social media you wouldn’t want the whole world to see.