Firework Safety for Independence Day


The Fourth of July means many things to America, the most important of which is an opportunity to celebrate the freedom we celebrate in this country.  It is a time for family, friends and fun.  It can also be a dangerous time for children and adults.  Over 550 children under the age of 16 require medical care in the four weeks surrounding July 4th, with more boys than girls becoming injured by fireworks.  The majority of these boys are ages 12 to 15 years.  Although it is important to children to be involved with the fireworks, simple safety precautions can prevent major injuries.  First, remember that children require supervision and should always be kept a safe distance from any fireworks display.  Children under five are too young to safely hold a sparkler on their own and do not understand why the pretty colored wand is dangerous.  Likewise, a baby or toddler will reach for anything brightly colored so avoid holding a baby or toddler while handling fireworks or sparklers.  Even older children require supervision while handling sparklers.  It is also a good idea to keep a bucket of water handy to dispose sparklers in once they have burned out to avoid a child from picking up a hot one off the ground.

It is a good idea to have one designated person to set up and light the fireworks.  Adults should use a taper or firework lighter to light fireworks instead of a cigarette lighter and remember to hold fireworks at an arm’s length or place it on the ground before lighting.  Move away from the fireworks after you light it but be very careful not to slip and fall.  Never light a firework close to your face or loose fitting clothing and avoid drinking alcohol if you will be lighting the fireworks.  Fireworks can have delays in their burn cycles so do not approach a firework until at least one minute has passed since its last activity and do not try to relight a “dud” .    The National Council on Fireworks Safety recommends wearing safety glasses when using fireworks and only lighting on firework at a time.  Bonfires should be at least 60 feet away from any building or structure, trees, hedges or fences.  Never throw fireworks into a bonfire.  It is important to ensure that you gather all of the spent fireworks after the display to prevent any burns, fires or any live fireworks from getting into the hands of children.  Make sure all fireworks are purchased legally and do not try to make your own fireworks as it is illegal and places you and your loved ones in danger.

Accidents happen so if you do experience a burn, flush it immediately with cold water for at least ten minutes and seem medical attention.  Never pull at clothing which may be stuck to a burn and make sure you keep burns clean and covered to avoid infection and aid in the healing process.  Remember that any burn larger than a postage stamp should be treated by a medical professional.  Remember this Independence Day that simple safety precautions can prevent your fun family celebration from becoming a trip to the emergency room. Have a safe and fun Fourth of July!

What to Do After an Automobile Accident

It happens in a second, often without warning.  It can be a short term inconvenience or a life altering event.  Most of us have been involved in some sort of automobile accident in our life.  Even if you are the most careful driver operating a vehicle with a high safety rating, you cannot avoid every accident.  So once you have been involved in an accident, what steps can you take to prevent further danger to yourself, the other driver or anyone else involved in the accident?  First, do not stand in the street and make sure you render aid to any injured persons.  Do not leave the scene of the accident, even if it doesn’t seem serious.  You could be charged with “Leaving the Scene of an Accident”, which can be a misdemeanor or a felony crime , depending on whether the other party claims injuries as a result of the accident and your state’s laws.  It is also important that you document the accident completely.  This includes exchanging insurance information and reporting the accident to law enforcement.   You will also want to take photographs if it is safe to do so without standing where you could be hit by passing traffic.  Photographs can be taken by a digital camera or even a camera phone.

Exchanging insurance information is an important part of documenting the accident.  Make sure you confirm the information the other driver gives you by viewing their driver’s license and insurance card.  Be sure to exchange name, address, phone number, insurance company, insurance policy and make, model and color of the vehicles involved in the accident.  Reporting the accident to law enforcement will also help both drivers confirm the information is accurate and any statements to the police regarding liability or potential injuries.  If you are injured in the accident, seek medical care as soon as possible and follow the recommendations of your treating physicians.  Make sure you keep a good record of where you have treated and any bills or expenses related to the accident.  Reporting the accident to law enforcement helps further document the occurrence of the accident.  As many as one in seven drivers has no car insurance.  This is why it is important to keep your insurance up to date.  If an uninsured driver hits you, you may need to make a claim against your own insurance company.  Do not forget to file your driver accident report, which must be filed with the Department of Motor Vehicles within ten (10) days of your accident in the State of Nebraska.  Make sure you are detailed and note what street you were on, which direction you were traveling and the details of how the accident happened.  You will also want to get the names, addresses and phone numbers of any witnesses to the accident.

Not everyone is calm and collected at the scene of an accident, but remember to handle yourself appropriately.  Always ask if the other driver is okay and never admit fault.  Be polite and courteous, but do not offer more information than your name and basic insurance information.  Remember that comments made at the scene of an accident can be held against you later.   You may also want to consult with an attorney to determine whether or not you have a claim against the other driver for your injuries and to ensure you get a fair and timely property settlement from the insurance company.  Remember that insurance claims take time to resolve so keep in touch with the insurance company while your vehicle is being repaired in order to ensure that your vehicle is repaired properly and you do not end up owing extra money in car rental fees.    Properly documenting an accident can ensure a smoother insurance claims process and reduce your stress as you prepare to find a new vehicle and get back on the road again.


Tracy Morgan and James “Jimmy Mack” McNair: Another Tragedy Caused by Lack of Sleep?

This weekend brought yet another tragedy caused by a truck driver who hadn’t slept for more than 24 hours prior to the accident.  Although the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA) requires truck drivers to take breaks from driving in their hours-of-service rules, it is not uncommon for accidents to occur when drivers violate those rules.  In 2013, these rules were modified to limit the maximum average work week for a truck driver to 70 hours (a decrease from the former 82 hours) with a requirement for truck drivers to take a 30 minute break during the first eight hours of a shift.  The rules were also modified to allow drivers who reach the maximum of 70 hours a week to resume if they had rested 34 consecutive hours, including at least two nights when their body clock demands the sleep most – from 1:00 to 5:00 a.m.   The rules allow for 11 hours of daily driving and a 14 hour work day.  Penalties for violations of these rules carry fines of up to $11,000.00 per offense for trucking companies and civil penalties to the drivers of up to $2,750.00 for each offense.  However, the real concern for these rules is highway safety.    According to FMSCA Administrator Anne S. Ferro, “These fatigue-fighting rules for truck drivers were carefully crafted based on years of scientific research and unprecedented stakeholder outreach. . . The result is a fair and balanced approach that will result in an estimated $280 million in savings from fewer large truck crashes and $470 million in savings from improved driver health. Most importantly, it will save lives.”  The new regulations were estimated to save 19 lives and prevent approximately 1,400 crashes and 560 injuries each year.

That’s what happened to a married couple, their two sons, and an unborn child who were moving from Montgomery County to California in 2012.  Christopher Schmidt, age 30 and his wife, Diana Schmidt, age 28, were moving their family to the Sacramento area to be closer to Diana’s parents.  Diana Schmidt was seven months pregnant.  The two parents were traveling in separate cars, one behind the other, when they were forced to stop for traffic on Interstate 80 which had slowed due to another accident ahead.  A tractor-trailer approaching from behind slammed into the Ford Mustang Christopher Schmidt was driving and the force of that collision propelled the Mustang into the rear of the Toyota Corolla carrying Diana and the children, causing the Toyota to crash into a truck stopped in front of it.  Both cars burst into flames and the entire family, plus their three dogs perished in the crash.  Ultimately, the driver of the semi, Josef Slezak, age 36, pled guilty to four counts of motor vehicle homicide and one count of motor vehicle homicide of an unborn fetus.  Josef Slezak had been asleep at the wheel when the crash occurred and there was no evidence he slowed down as he approached the line of stopped traffic.  Testimony in this case demonstrated that Slezak left Midwest Refrigerated Services in Milwaukee, Wisconsin about 3 o’clock in the afternoon Central Time on September 8, 2012 and was on-duty until the early morning hours of the crash in Cheyenne County on September 9th, nearly 15 hours later, which would exceed regulations.  My partner, attorney John Inserra, opines “These cases often require extensive discovery to determine hours of service issues, as well as the safety of the tractor/trailer and whether other federal trucking regulations have been violated in a thorough investigation of the claim.”

In the Tracy Morgan accident, Wal-Mart trucker Kevin Roper failed to slow for traffic ahead and swerved to avoid a crash, ultimately smashing into the back of Morgan’s chauffeured limo bus, killing comedian James “Jimmy Mack” McNair and injuring Tracy Morgan and three other people.  He has been charged with death by auto and four counts of assault by auto.  A New Jersey law allows a person who causes injury after knowingly operating a vehicle after being awake for more than 24 hours to be charged with assault.  Wal-Mart has stated it would “take full responsibility” if it were determined its truck caused the accident, however stated it believed Roper was operating within federal regulations.  Federal data confirms that Wal-Mart trucks have been involved in 380 crashes in the past two years, causing nine deaths and 129 injuries, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.  The Morgan and Schmidt accidents further emphasize the importance of truckers obeying the hours of service regulations not only for their own safety but to avoid tragedies that affect innocent families.

Summer Road Trips: Are your tires safe?

road trip

Summer is here and it is time to plan the family vacation.  When we learn to drive a car, we learn basic vehicle safety.  We are told to check the oil, kick the tires and make sure our fluid levels are steady.  But what about what we cannot easily see?  A vehicle’s tires have been considered to be at the top of the list for safety features in a vehicle.  They help the vehicle maintain steering, stability, traction and, yes, even braking systems.  However, tires can and do fail.  Whether it is from a nail you picked up somewhere along your travels or from abrupt tire failure, this can cause a driver to lose control of the vehicle with devastating consequences, especially at high speeds or on the interstate.  Tire defects can include inadequate tire design, poor manufacturing standards, insufficient tire bonding, use of old adhesives, improper cooking temperatures or even contamination during production, caused by moisture, sawdust, grease or rust.  When a tire fails, you may experience anything from tread separation to a tire blowout.  Tread separation occurs when a tire’s belts rip apart from each other.  A blowout can be caused by a puncture or cut to the sidewall of a tire or by a defective rim that cuts into the sidewall or causes the bead to break, ultimately slipping the tire off the rim.  Low air pressure can also cause a blowout.

There are warning signs, however.  If your vehicle experiences unusual shaking when you are driving, an unusual thumping or vibration, sudden pulling of the vehicle to one side (often referred to as “radial pulling”), or you notice uneven or excessive tread wear; you should have your tires checked.  You should adhere to your vehicle’s maintenance schedule for rotating, aligning and balancing your tires and between maintenance check to ensure your tires are properly inflated and not losing air pressure.  A common way to check your tire treat is by placing a penny between the tread grooves in the tire with Abraham Lincoln’s image facing upside down and forward.  If Lincoln’s hair is partially visible, it is time to replace your tires.  If his entire head is visible, you have lost most of your traction and should have your tires replaced immediately.

Unfortunately, a recent report by ABC News revealed that many recalled tires remain on the road today due to a badly flawed governmental recall system.  When you replace a tire, take note of the tire’s Department of Transportation (DOT) Tire Identification Number (TIN), imprinted on the sidewall of the tire.  The first 7 or 8 digits disclose information regarding the tire size and the manufacturer; while the last four digits reveal the week and year it was made.  You can also search for tire recalls on  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also provides an avenue to sign up for updates on tire recalls on their website or by following the agency on Twitter or Facebook.

Driving on safe tires means you can keep yourself and your entire family safe while in your vehicle.  With a few minor precautions, you can make that summer family road trip safer and more enjoyable.

Injured at Work: Do I have more than one claim?


hurt at work

It is Monday morning and you report to your job as a file clerk in a major corporation.  You go to the filing cabinet to get a file and trip over a drawer that was left open again, despite numerous complaints to management about the number of times this has happened and the danger it presents.  You have tripped over this drawer before, which is often left open because the file cabinet doesn’t close correctly and is due to be replaced.  You and other co-workers have put in requisition forms to your supervisor to replace the cabinet, but the budget is tight this year and the company has not replaced it.  Usually you just stub your toe or stumble and catch yourself, but today you actually fall and break your ankle and twist your back while falling.  What are your rights?  Who will pay your medical bills?  Who will pay your salary while you are off work?

In Nebraska, your only option against your employer is workers’ compensation under the Exclusive Remedy Doctrine.   Plock v. Crossroads Joint Venture, 239 Neb. 211, 475 N.W.2d 105 (1991).  Despite the fact that your employer failed to replace the filing cabinet and/or disregarded your complaints and didn’t make any changes in procedure, you will not have a lawsuit against your employer outside of workers’ compensation.  There is no claim for an intentional tort against your employer in the State of Nebraska.  The exclusive remedy doctrine provides a “give-and-take” remedy for addressing work-related injuries in which the employee relinquishes the right to sue an employer in civil court in exchange for specific and guaranteed benefits under the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Act, regardless of fault.  Benefits usually include payment of medical treatment under a specified fee schedule, as well as “indemnity” payments to help compensate the worker for lost wages.

If you are injured at work, workers’ compensation will generally cover your injuries, with certain limited exceptions such as if your employer has entered into an express contract with a third-party to indemnify the third-party for the loss.    Union Pacific Railroad Co. v. Kaiser Ag. Chem. Co., 229 Neb. 160 (1988).   Railroads are governed by the Federal Employers’ Liability Act  of 1908 (FELA), rather than workers’ compensation, which falls under a different set of guidelines.  Even though workers’ compensation is your exclusive remedy for the negligence of your employer, you may have other claims.  Should your injuries be the fault of a third party, you may be able to seek compensation from the third party.  In this case, the workers’ compensation carrier may still pay your bills, however they are entitled to recovery of their payments from any settlement with the negligent party.  The employer is, however, protected from the third-party defendant’s attempts to seek contribution against an injured employee’s employer or co-workers.

If an employer subject to the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Act fails to carry workers’ compensation insurance or an acceptable alternative, it loses the protection of the exclusive remedy.  In this situation, an employee can choose whether to accept the guaranteed benefits under the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Act or to pursue a civil action directly against the employer.  Neb. Rev. Stat. § 48-145(3).   The employer’s non-compliance with the law operates as a Waiver of Exclusive Remedy.

So now that you know who will pay for your injuries, what is your responsibility as an injured employee?  First, you must timely give notice of your injury to your employer.  The law says this must be done “as soon as practicable” in writing, describing the details of your injury including the time, date, place and cause of the injury.  This notice is not necessary if your employer has “actual” notice of the injury, such as if the employer is present at the time of the injury.  Thompson v. Monfort of Colo, Inc., 221 Neb. 83, 375 N.W.2d 601 (1985).  Once your employer is notified of the injury, it is their responsibility to file a First Report of Injury with the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Court and open a claim.

It is important to note that your claim must be filed within two years of the date of your accident or two years from the last payment for compensation of medical or indemnity (wages).  Neb. Rev. Stat. § 48-137.  If you or a loved one has suffered an injury at work, you should have your claim evaluated by an attorney who handles workers’ compensation and is familiar with the specifications of the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Act.

Androgel: Is it worth the cardiovascular risk?

pill lawsuits

Low testosterone is a fairly common problem for many men after the age of thirty. As a man begins to lose testosterone, he can experience a number of serious health problems such as depression, a decreased libido, erections which are less pleasurable, low energy levels and decreased endurance. Testosterone gels or testosterone supplements are often a remedy to low testosterone, however physicians also prescribe prescription medications to alleviate symptoms. One such drug, Androgel, has recently been found to increase the risk of testosterone stroke and testosterone heart attack. Although Androgel warns of potential side effects in its literature and on its label, inclusive of high blood pressure, blood clots in the legs and other “serious problems” for persons with heart, kidney or liver disease, the actual risk of this drug includes testosterone death.

In November of 2013, the Journal of the American Medical Association published an article linking Androgel with testosterone death as well as other serious side effects. Prescriptions for low testosterone rose from 208 million in 2008 to over 432 million (including refills) in 2013. In 2011, testosterone therapy was a $1.6 billion business. Although the drug did enjoy some success in improving men’s sexual function, bone density, strength and lean muscle mass, as well as lowering cholesterol and insulin resistance, men who used the drug were found to be thirty percent more likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke or die within a three-year period than men with low hormone levels who didn’t take supplements in the 2013 Journal of American Medical Association study. The men in this study averaged 60 years of age and most had other health problems.   In contrast, most studies funded by pharmaceutical companies concluded no increased risk of cardiovascular problems associated with testosterone drugs.

Whether you believe the Journal of American Medical Association study or the pharmaceutical company studies, five Androgel lawsuits have been filed in the Illinois federal court against the manufacturers AbbVie Inc., and Abbott Laboratories, Inc., claiming the actual risk of serious side effects associated with the drug were not disclosed and concealed by the manufacturers. One plaintiff claims he suffered a heart attack, as well as other physical and emotional damages after taking the drug. The five lawsuits were filed only days after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) disclosed an investigation regarding the cardiovascular risks of the drug in an alert on January 31, 2014.

If you or a loved one has suffered a heart attack or stroke after taking the drug Androgel, please contact an attorney who handles mass tort claims to have your claim evaluated.

Poisoning in the Home . . . Preventing the Unthinkable

It has happened to every parent.  You are spending time with your toddler.  You look away for a split second and they are gone.  We can be the most conscientious of caregivers and yet, children still find a way to get into things not meant for them.  Sometimes it is candy, sometimes it is paperwork, but what about the times when what they dig into is dangerous, or worse, poison?  We know we cannot watch them every second of every day so prevention becomes the crucial tool most likely to avoid poisoning in the home.  In order to avoid poison, you have to first know what it looks like.  Yes, it may look like drain cleaner to us, but it is the same color as Kool-Aid to them.  It looks like medicine when mom takes it, but it is poison for their little bodies.  What about the poison you cannot see?  Carbon Monoxide poisoning is fatal, but you cannot see it, smell it or feel it.  In fact, many people die from the poison before ever experiencing any symptoms.

Household Chemicals:

Household cleaners should always be stored in their original bottles or containers and be secured in an area small children cannot reach.  You can child-proof you home with safety latches, grips, outlet covers and slide locks.  Remember that babies and toddlers will put almost anything in their mouths, so it is our job to ensure that they are not exposed to chemicals or sharp corners or other dangers.  KidSafe has a child proofing checklist which assists us in making sure we have covered each room and the dangers that exist.  Adults can also poison themselves with cleaners by mixing products together.  Bleach and ammonia can be a toxic combination.   Always wear protective clothing if you spray pesticides or chemicals, including gloves, long sleeves, long pants, socks and shoes.  Ventilate the room when painting or using strong chemicals.


Poisoning does not just affect children, however.  Adults are poisoned by misuse or abuse of prescription drugs, or from simply not watching the expiration dates and consuming toxic medications.  There are several safety precautions you can use to avoid an accidental overdose or taking a medication that has become toxic.  First, never take any medications that are not prescribed to you by a healthcare professional and limit your use to the dosage you are prescribed.  Just because a medication worked for Grandma doesn’t mean it is healthy for you or your toddler.  Make sure you keep vitamins and herbals in a separate place from prescription drugs and keep both in a place that can only be reached by those who dispense the medication or are supposed to be taking it.  Always keep your medication in its original container and turn on a light when you take medication to be sure you know what you are taking.  Dispose of unused, unneeded or expired prescription drugs properly and if you don’t know how you should be disposing of them, contact your pharmacist.  Always monitor the medication use of your children, teenagers and the elderly.  If necessary, keep narcotics in a lockbox for security.  Remember that medications kept in a purse, backpack, coat or on an open counter are a temptation to a small child and easily accessible.

Carbon Monoxide

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), carbon monoxide poisoning kills more than 400 Americans a year unintentionally, sends 20,000 to the emergency room and hospitalizes 4,000.  People and animals are subject to poisoning.  Prevention includes having your heating system, water heater and any other gas appliance serviced by a qualified technician each year, as well as ensuring you have a battery-operated or battery back-up Carbon Monoxide detector in your home.  Batteries should be changed when you update the time on your clocks each spring and fall.  Look for gas equipment that carries the seal of a national testing agency, such as the CSA Group.   Make sure your appliances that are gas are vented and never leave gas stoves or fireplaces running when you will not be home.

What if . . . . ?

No matter how much we try to prevent it, poisoning does happen.  So what do you do?  Remain calm and call 9-1-1 or the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.  Be prepared to tell emergency responders the victim’s age and weight, time of exposure and address where the poisoning occurred.  If possible, have the container or bottle containing the poison available and follow the instructions of emergency personnel or the Poison Control Center in rendering first aid until first responders arrive.

FDA Recommends Strict Changes Affecting Transvaginal Mesh Litigation

Last month a Dallas jury ordered Johnson & Johnson ordered to pay $1.2 million in compensatory damages to a woman injured by a transvaginal mesh (TVM) implant.  As a result of a defective design in the product, the Plaintiff suffered severe injuries when the mesh “bladder sling” eroded inside of her.  This verdict is the first mesh case which deals with a “bladder sling” product, rather than a pelvic organ prolapse product.  Many patients with transvaginal mesh slings have been forced to undergo additional surgeries to correct problems with their implants.  Although there have been many problems with the mechanically cut TVT-O mesh, it is still being used along with other products such as the TVT-Secur and TVT-Abrevo.  The Dallas verdict is expected to set a precedent for future transvaginal mesh cases.

Last week, a WFAA-TV report on transvaginal mesh, a plastic mesh product used to treat stress urinary incontinence and pelvic prolapse, was released disclosing details of the Dallas verdict.  The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) has been aware of problems with trans-vaginal mesh products since 2008, when they first released a “Public Health Notification” after receiving “over 1,000” reports of “adverse events” regarding surgical mesh devices.  In 2011, the FDA sent out another warning, alleging “serious complications associated with surgical mesh” “are not rare” and that mesh “may expose patients to greater risk” than traditional procedures.

Since then, women across the country have formed organizations and online support groups trying to get mesh removed from the market.  This week, we heard from the FDA again, when it called for stricter safety rules for transvaginal mesh after receiving literally thousands of reports of serious and sometimes permanent complications from the product.  There are approximately 60,000 transvaginal mesh cases pending against several companies nationwide.  Although some cases include reports of bleeding and infection, other cases include reports of pain and urinary incontinence.  The FDA’s proposed changes include reclassifying transvaginal mesh as a “high-risk” medical device.  Additionally, the FDA wants to require manufacturers to prove the products are safe before releasing them to market.

The FDA released a press release issued by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration this week identifying clear risks of the products and proposing steps to address the risks in order to provide more “safe and effective products”.  According to Dr. William Maisel, deputy director of science and chief scientist at the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, if the proposals are finalized, manufacturers will be required to provide premarket clinical data to demonstrate a “reasonable assurance of safety and effectiveness for surgical mesh used to treat transvaginal POP repair”.  These changes come after years of work by Joleen Chambers, a patient advocate who started the Failed Implant Device Alliance.  This proposal does not include surgical mesh treatments for hernia repair.

The FDA will allow public comment on the proposal over the next ninety days.  This is a very positive development for women who have suffered injuries as a result of transvaginal mesh complications.  If you or a loved one has been affected by transvaginal mesh or bladder sling complications, please contact an attorney who handles these types of mass tort claims.


Nebraska and Iowa Address Distracted Driving Accident Prevention Awareness

As April draws to a close, we remind our clients, friends and family to avoid distracted driving by keeping your mind and hands on your driving.  April is designated as the month dedicated to prevention of Distracted Driving, including texting, changing the radio station, talking on your phone, playing with your iPad or iPod, or any other activity which distracts you from your driving.  As attorneys who practice personal injury, this issue hits close to home.  Every day we see traumatic accidents all over the nation caused by distracted driving.  This is an issue that draws attention in our schools, our work, our homes, and our legislature.

Nebraska has addressed the issue of distracted driving by making texting while driving and failure to wear seatbelt infractions secondary offenses.  This means that you cannot be ticketed for either offense unless you are stopped by law enforcement for another reason.  The current law on texting and driving was passed by the unicameral in 2010 and was amended so the $200.00 fine could only be issued as a secondary offense.  Unfortunately, this led to only 234 citations in 2011 and 2012, hardly an effective argument for deterring cell phone usage while driving.  The most likely reason for this low number of convictions is the fact that it is only a secondary offense.

However, in this latest legislative session, Senator John Harms of Scottsbluff introduced the Nebraska Roadway Safety Act, LB807, a bill aimed at making our roads safer, including a provision which would have made texting while driving a primary offense.   Wearing a seatbelt would also be a primary offense.  The bill also proposes no cell phone use by bus drivers while a bus is in motion unless communicating with dispatch.  At the end of the legislative session, this bill was indefinitely postponed.

Meanwhile, Iowa is also making deterring distracted driving a priority.  In late March, the Iowa Senate voted 27-22 in favor of an appropriations bill setting aside $200,000.00 to be used in an educational campaign regarding the risks of distracted driving.  This bill will now go to the Iowa House, where legislation to specifically crack down on the problem of texting and driving has stalled.  There has been a dispute as to which department’s budget will provide funding for the appropriations bill.

Texting and driving is still a crucial part of improving roadway safety and accident prevention.  Although texting and driving is often the distraction that is focused on in legislation and in the public, other activities which can move your attention away from the task of operating your motor vehicle safely should be avoided or delayed until you can perform the task safely.

Plaintiffs Recover Damages from Actos and TVM Manufacturers

The first two weeks of April brought large verdicts for two plaintiffs injured by dangerous drugs.  Takeda Pharmaceutical Co., and its partner Eli Lilly & Co. have been ordered to pay a combined total of $9 billion in punitive damages after determining their product, Actos, which was originally manufactured for treatment of diabetes, knew about the cancer risks of the drug.  The punitive damage award was in addition to the $1.5 million in special damages to the Plaintiff, who had developed bladder cancer after taking Actos.  This was the first federal trial in the multidistrict litigation dealing with Actos claims and was awarded by a federal jury in Lafayette, LA.  Takeda’s shares in Tokyo tumbled 8.4 percent after the verdict.  Takeda and Lilly are expected to appeal the verdict, according to their representatives.

Although compensatory damages are meant to compensate a Plaintiff for actual damages, and punitive damages are designed to punish and deter bad behavior, the two types of damages must bear some relationship to one another, according to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling.  The Court could rule that the $9 billion in punitive damages is excessive and unconstitutional, which has traditionally happened with verdicts that demonstrate punitive damages over nine times those of compensatory damages.  The Louisiana jury was presented with the financial information regarding the defendants when determining the amount of the punitive damages, which demonstrated each defendant was worth tens of billions of dollars.  Large punitive damages are often a sign that a jury wishes to make an impact on the defendants according to legal experts.

In a separate trial in a Dallas state court, Johnson & Johnson was ordered to pay $1.2 million in compensatory damages to a woman injured by a transvaginal mesh (TVM) implant.  As a result of a defective design in the product, the Plaintiff suffered severe injuries when the mesh “bladder sling” eroded inside of her.  This verdict is the first mesh case which deals with a “bladder sling” product, rather than a pelvic organ prolapse product.  Many patients with transvaginal mesh slings have been forced to undergo additional surgeries to correct problems with their implants.  Although there have been many problems with the mechanically cut TVT-O mesh, it is still being used along with other products such as the TVT-Secur and TVT-Abrevo.  The Dallas verdict is expected to set a precedent for future transvaginal mesh cases.

The Actos and TVM verdicts are big wins for those injured by defective drugs and medical products as they set a tone for future verdicts.  If you have suffered injuries as a result of a defective drug, contact an attorney well-versed in handling mass tort litigation.