United States of America

An opioid settlement is coming.  How much money is in it for you?  If you have suffered, it is a fair question.  But this is a different kind of opioid settlement.

Thousands of counties, townships and local jurisdictions from across the country are currently suing a group of pharmaceutical companies that manufacture and sell prescription opioid painkillers. The local jurisdictions are seeking money to reimburse them for the billions of dollars they have been forced to spend in response to the opioid abuse epidemic. After months of little or no movement in this matter, reports came out last week suggesting that a global settlement proposal may finally be in the works.

The Scope of the Opioid Settlement

Under 42 Pa.C.S. §§ 8541 et seq., political subdivisions in Pennsylvania, including public schools, receive a broad degree of governmental immunity under Pennsylvania tort law. But there are specific exceptions. In the recent case of Brewington v Philadelphia School District, the state’s high court expanded the “real property exception” to governmental immunity.

Case Facts

A nine-year-old boy was engaged in a relay race during his gym class at a Philadelphia elementary school when he tripped and fell. As a result, he was propelled into the concrete gym wall where he hit and cut his head causing him to lose consciousness. Soon after, doctors diagnosed him with a concussion that prevented him from attending school for nearly two months after the incident and experienced continuing headaches and memory problems for years after. The gymnasium wall in its surrounding entirety lacked any kind of padding to cover the concrete and provide at least some degree of protection.

I like many GEICO adjusters and lawyers.  I like Warren Buffett.  But I don’t like GEICO. This new opinion by a California appellate court in Mazik v. GEICO after a jury slapped GEICO reminds me why.

Mazik v. GEICO Facts

The plaintiff suffered a crushing type of foot fracture of his left calcaneus (heel) in a car crash.  This is a tough injury. We can all agree that the value of an injury like this is more than $100,000, right?  The plaintiff received policy limits of $50,000 from the at-fault driver’s insurer.  The plaintiff sought an additional $50,000 from GEICO for underinsured motorist coverage (his policy was more than the at-fault driver).  The plaintiff accident attorney says he asked GEICO four times to pay the policy limits.  But GEICO refused.

backpainlowA verdicts and settlements database found that the median plaintiff’s verdict award for motor vehicle cases that involved back injuries is $212,500. For all car, truck, and motorcycle accident injury cases in the database that earned a plaintiff’s verdict, the median award is $300,000.

Sample Verdicts and Settlements in Back Injury Cases 2017-2019

I’m not writing many blog posts with an exclamation point in the title. But my goodness.

pesticide-239x300A jury in Oakland, California this week found Monsanto liable for yet another case of cancer and awarded a couple $2 billion plus more than $55 million total in compensatory damages! Alva and Alberta Pilliod are both in their 70s and have lived in Livermore, a town 40 miles east of San Francisco, for over 30 years.

While living there, they also used Roundup for more than 30 years to keep their home landscaped and unfortunately, both developed cancer. Alva was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2011 that started in his bones and soon spread to his pelvis and spine. Four years later, his wife Alberta was also diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma but hers was in her brain. Fortunately, they both survived and are currently in remission, but the cancer has had life-changing effects on both of their lives and they both have suffered lasting damage from it.

A federal jury this week found that exposure to Roundup, the popular weed killer product, caused a California man to develop cancer.  How much money did they award?  They have not given an award because the case was bifurcated.  There will be another phase to determine damages.

In phase 2 of the trial in San Francisco, the jury determines Monsanto’s liability and decide how much money to award in damages. Hardeman v. Monsanto is the bellwether case for the Roundup MDL (what is an MDL?) which includes thousands of similar suits from federal courts around the country. The ultimate outcome of the Hardeman trial will dictate how the remaining Roundup cases are resolved and things are looking good for the plaintiffs so far.

The causation ruling in Hardeman comes on the heels of a landmark verdict in a Roundup case in California state court – Johnson v. Monsanto. That case ended in disaster for Monsanto with a verdict of $280 million for the plaintiff.

hernia mesh settlementsTo date, thousands of lawsuits related to defective hernia mesh implants have been filed in courts across the country. These suits claim that defective surgical implant devices were the cause of chronic pain, serious infections, obstructed bowels, perforated abdomen lining, and the development of adhesions. Some plaintiffs’ injuries were severe enough that they needed further surgeries to correct these issues.

The defendants in these lawsuits include, but are not limited to, Ethicon, C.R. Bard, and Atrium. The plaintiffs in these cases allege that the hernia mesh and patch implants were defectively designed which caused them to malfunction after being implanted in hernia repair surgery. At this point, none of these hernia mesh lawsuits have gone to trial or settled. However, an examination of prior settlements in similar cases suggests that hernia mesh plaintiffs can expect case values in the million dollar range.

What Is Hernia Mesh?

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Bair Hugger MDL Coming Soon?

The Bair Hugger lawsuits are going poorly for plaintiffs.  Should you bring a claim if you believe you suffered an infection from a Bair Hugger during surgery?  Decide for yourself.  But in spite of some early punches to the face for plaintiffs, there is a still a reasonable chance these cases end well for plaintiffs.  Let’s talk about these cases, what there are, where they are going, and what are the prospects that the 3M Bair Hugger cases reach a settlement.

What These Bair Hugger Cases Are About

A Bair Hugger device is a temperature management system that is used during surgery.  The purpose of the invention is to help the body regulate the appropriate temperature. The Bair Hugger pushed hot air through a hose into a blanket specially made to work with the device. The hot air produced by Bair Hugger accumulates under the surgical drape covering the patient.  This hot air escapes under the surgical drape below the level of the surgical table or over top of it

 

Bair Hugger Forced Air Warming Device is designed, manufactured, and marketed by Defendants 3M Company and Arizant Healthcare, Inc. There are more than 50,000 Bair Hugger FAWs in the United States.

How does it work? The Bair Hugger is a portable heater/blower connected by a flexible hose to a blanket, typically positioned the patient getting surgery.

Keeping a patient warm is particularly useful during knee and hip replacement surgery because the procedures tend to be very long.   The body loses heat increasingly over the course of surgery.

Another thing about metal hip and knee replacement surgery is that your body is particularly prone to infection. Why?  The metal helps spread the infection.

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goutThe latest drug to catch the eye of mass tort lawyers is the gout medication Uloric.  The FDA is concerned that Uloric has a greater risk of death compared to allopurinol, another gout medication. This follows a clinical trial which showed that Uloric may result in heart-related death.

What is gout?

Gout is a variation of arthritis that results when urate crystals accumulate around joints. Urate crystals are formed when there are abnormally high levels of uric acid in the blood. Uric acid is usually dissolvable in the bloodstream and urinated out. However, the body can sometimes either produce too much uric acid or excrete too little of it. Gout primarily affects the joint connected to the big toe. Its sufferers experience symptoms such as joint pain, inflammation, redness, and difficulties with moving around. Paul Manafort’s gout complications since he has gone to prison has been a big news story of late.  This makes sense because inactivity can exacerbate gout symptoms.

boy-on-dock-2019-300x200In February 2019, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed Child Victims Act into law. It extends the statute of limitations for victims of child abuse.  Child sex abuse victims are now allowed to file criminal charges against their abuser before they turn 28. Victims are allowed to file civil charges against their abuser before they turn 55. Previously, victims had to file both civil and criminal charges before they turned 23. The law also allows a one-year period for individuals to file cases that happened longer than what the statute of limitations would have allowed. It also requires judges to have some training on how to handle child sex abuse cases.

What are statutes of limitations, and why do we have them?

Statutes of limitations (SOL) are a predetermined period of time that the state is allowed to charge someone with a crime. Different crimes have different extended periods of time when one can file charges against someone. However, the same crime may have a different SOL depending on the state. There are SOL laws because of concerns that witness testimony might be unreliable. A victim may not necessarily remember enough about their abuse that the jury may not find them credible. Physical evidence may also deteriorate over time, which further questions credibility.