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March 2011 Archives

Supreme Court Rules Against Another Patient

The Texas Supreme Court recently threw out another case brought by a patient. In the case of Turtle Healthcare Group, L.L.C. d/b/a Fred's Pharmacy v. Linan, et al., ___ S.W.3d ___(Tex. 2011)(2/25/11), the family of a woman who was dependent upon a ventilator asked the provider for extra supplies and batteries because of an approaching hurricane. Shortly after power was lost, ventilator was found not operating and the woman was dead.

New Bus Safety Recommendations Being Examined by NHTSA

After the New York bus crash that killed 15 people earlier this month, transportation safety has frequently been in the headlines. The latest of these headlines focused on the lack of technology in large motor coaches.

Explosion at Port Arthur Chemical Plant

Today, around 2 p.m., an explosion at the KMTEX chemical plant near Port Arthur, Texas claimed the life of one worker and injured three others. According to preliminary reports, the explosion involved the processing of gasoline and a 500-barrel fuel tank exploded, resulting in a flash fire. According to Sheriff's Deputy Rod Carroll, two of the injured workers were flown by helicopter to hospital emergency rooms.

Cash for Keys

As delinquencies on home loans slowly decline, the five biggest US mortgage servicers are looking for new and creative ways to foreclose on properties. Their new proposal is called "cash for keys" and it is an offer to bribe delinquent homeowners to leave their house in exchange for a small sum of cash. This proposed tactic is in response to the scrutiny that the mortgage providers have been under for their failure to accurately document the seizure and sale of tens of thousands of homes.

Study finds widespread conflicts of interest for cardiologists

Heart diseases are the leading cause of death in the United States and account for a large proportion of acute medical care provided by doctors across the country. But a recent study raises concerns that the majority of the doctors writing practice guidelines for cardiology practice are being paid one way or another by the medical device and drug manufacturers. Many doctors also own stock or give speeches on these companies' behalf.

Federal Judiciary Vacancies

The federal judiciary has recently found itself in a precarious position. According to a February 8 article in the Washington Post, new bench vacancies are occurring at a rate of close to one per week, which has doubled the number of total vacancies since President Obama took office. Indeed, out of the 857 judgeships nationally, 101 sit vacant, 46 have been deemed "judicial emergencies," and around 15 more are expected to become vacant this year.

Dixie Pipeline

On Thursday, February 10, 2011, The First Court of Appeals in Houston handed down a decision that affirmed a previous ruling won by our firm, denying the defendants in a pipeline explosion case the opportunity for a rehearing, and simultaneously providing clear direction in future choice of law debates.
The case, Enterprise Products Partners, L.P. and Dixie Pipeline Co. v. Mitchell, et al, involved an explosion in a liquid propane pipeline. The pipeline, which spans 35,000 miles through seven states, ruptured in a rural area outside of Jackson, Mississippi. The leak in the pipeline released over 430,000 gallons of propane into the air, turning it into a highly flammable gas cloud that ignited over a neighborhood near the site of the rupture. When the cloud ignited, the resulting explosion killed two people, injured seven more, and started a fire that burned four homes, seventy acres of farmland, and evacuated sixty families. The families of those who lost loved ones and property filed suit in Harris County against Enterprise Products and Dixie Pipeline.
The issue on appeal began at the trial level, where the defendants' lawyers asked the court to apply Mississippi damages law to the case, because the plaintiffs were Mississippi residents, and the explosion occurred there. Having the court apply Mississippi law would benefit the defendants greatly because it would drastically limit the amount payable to the plaintiffs, since the laws of Mississippi cap non-economic damages at $1 million. The court sided with the plaintiffs, and ruled that Texas law would apply.
The defendants filed an interlocutory appeal in the First Court of Appeals, which ruled last August that Texas law would govern the case. The defendants then filed a motion for en banc reconsideration of that ruling, which was denied Thursday. In explaining why defendants' most recent motion was denied, the court pointed to several key factors.
First, the court acknowledged that while the plaintiffs are residents of Mississippi, and the state of Mississippi has an interest in providing for the adequate compensation of injured citizens, the Mississippi damages cap would likely prevent that from happening in this case. Second, the court explained that the defendant companies in this suit have their principle places of business in Texas, and the state of Texas has an interest in protecting defendants who are residents. Third, the injury causing conduct (here, the control and operation of the pipeline) occurred at a central location in Texas. Finally, both parties agreed that Texas law would govern all other issues in the case, and as the court explained, Texas damages laws are at the very least capable of ensuring the plaintiffs compensation equal to that available under Mississippi law.
I will be providing updates as our firm tries to help the victims of this tragedy and their families begin to move on, so please check back.

Death at the Rodeo Carnival

On the last day of this year's Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, Brian Greenhouse (47) fell twenty-eight feet to his death from the "Hi-Miler" roller coaster. According Leroy Shafer, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo event CEO, this was the first fatality at the carnival in at least forty years. So what happened?

"State Budget Cuts Could Cost Texas Hundreds of Thousands of Jobs"

According to a story on www.texastribune.org, a Legislative Budget Board analysis released Thursday showed the state could lose 271,746 jobs in 2012 and 335,244 in 2013. The report concerns a combination of public and private sector positions. Under the current House budget proposal, state funding will be cut by 12.3 percent for the next biennium.

Lasko Products Inc. recalls over 4 million fans after 7 fires reported

Lasko Products Inc. recalled 4.8 million of its box fans after seven reports of fires, including two in houses and one in a barn according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. The commission says that an electrical failure in the fan motor creates a fire hazard. No one has been injured yet but the fires have caused extensive property damage.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Our law firm recently settled a wrongful death case against a large, multinational corporation who we alleged employed a driver who fell asleep at the wheel, causing a major collision. The driver of the defendant vehicle fit the classic description of someone suffering from obstructive sleep apnea. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, there are an estimated 20 million Americans who likely suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, with 80 to 90% of those going undiagnosed and untreated. These type of numbers are sobering when we ponder how many of these drivers are on the roads of our country on a daily basis.

Another infant death from recalled drop side crib

In 2008, the Consumer Products Safety Commission was informed that an eight-month-old girl was killed when the sliding side of her drop side crib entrapped and suffocated her. The crib, manufactured by Delta Enterprise had been re-assembled without the safety pegs that are designed to keep the crib side from disengaging with the track on which it travels. In October of 2008, the CPSC issued a recall of nearly one million unsafe cribs.

Supreme Court Requires Dismissal when Doctor Avoids Lawsuit

In a recent opinion, the Texas Supreme Court ruled that when a patient is unable to deliver a copy of an expert report to a doctor within 120 days after filing suit because the doctor cannot be located, the patient's claim must be dismissed forever. The ruling will reward a doctor for avoiding a copy of the lawsuit papers when he has been sued.

Houston man charged in fatal car accident

Last Saturday, at just before six in the evening, there was a fatal car accident on the 610 Loop in Houston. A 34-year-old woman and a 12-year-old boy were killed in the crash when they were ejected from the vehicle in which they were riding. Four others were rushed to Memorial Herman-Texas Medical Center and with what are reported to be non-life threatening injuries.

Popular Company Johnson & Johnson Recalls Numerous Drugs

Since September 2009, Johnson and Johnson, the world's biggest health products maker, have issued 20 drug recalls or medical device recalls. These recalls include over-the-counter medicines such as Motrin, Rolaids, children's Tylenol liquid and adult Tylenol, Mylanta, Pepcid AC and even some Neutrogena skin care products, Benadryl, contact lenses, and DePuy hip replacements. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and U.S. Justice Department have begun to bar the company from resuming operations linked to millions of bottles of defective medicine until standards increase. Additionally, Oregon became the first state to file a lawsuit against J&J over a "phantom" recall of Motrin drugs. The suit alleges that the company's McNeil division sold faulty Motrin drugs in gas stations and convenience stores nationwide in 2008, and then secretly removed the products from store shelves.

DePuy Hip Implant Recall - Update

Since August of 2010, DePuy Orthopaedics, Inc. issued a worldwide recall of both its ASR XL Acetabular System (total hip replacement) and its DePuy ASR Hip Resurfacing System. In 2003, DePuy released the ASR systems and marketed them as a unique, state of the art implants. What made the ASR systems so unique was the metal-on-metal design, and DePuy marketed these implants as a design breakthrough that would revolutionize the industry, last longer, and provide better movement and flexibility to the patients needing a hip replacement.

Man killed in hit and run on Gulf Freeway

Early Monday morning a young man in Houston was killed when he was struck twice by vehicles while trying to cross the Gulf Freeway. While the driver of the first vehicle that struck the man remained at the scene, the driver of the second vehicle fled.

Public Database for Safety Complaints Goes Live

According to the Associated Press, the website SaferProducts.gov, overseen by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, went live as scheduled. Manufactures objected to the website and a GOP Congress attempted to withhold money for the project until manufacturer's concerns were addressed. The database allows people to file reports of injury or potential harm about household products, baby gear and more. In the coming weeks people will be able to search for safety complaints about specific items they might have in their homes or want to purchase.

Deer Park man killed while working at Lubrizol Plant

Jamie David Godines of Deer Park, Texas, was killed on February 23 while working for Austin Industrial at the Lubrizol Plant in Deer Park. Mr. Godines died from exposure to toxic levels of hydrogen sulfide and other toxic fumes while cleaning a rail car. On behalf of Mr. Godines' wife Amy Godines, maziz@abrahamwatkins.com filed a lawsuit in Harris County District Court against The Lubrizol Corp. and Austin Industrial, Inc., alleging negligence and gross negligence. Ms. Godines is seeking actual and punitive damages, as well as court costs.

Supreme Court Rules against Patients Again

The Texas Supreme Court ruled recently that, in certain circumstances, a defendant who has been sued can blame a health care provider, but the patient cannot. The opinion was issued in Molinet v. Kimbrell, et al., ___ S.W.3d ___ (Tex. 2011).

Two killed in fatal Texas accident this morning

Early this morning, there were two reported fatalities in a tragic car accident on westbound Interstate 30 near Arlington, Texas. The crash occurred during morning rush hour just before seven o'clock. The identities and ages of the victims of this fatal crash have not yet been reported.

Insulin Pump Recall

Animas, a division of Johnson & Johnson, announced the recall of approximately 384,000 insulin pumps, or 5% of its yearly production, today. The pumps are potentially leaky, which can cause them to deliver less insulin to the patient than intended. Insufficient insulin can cause high blood sugar and the potentially fatal condition known as diabetic ketoacidosis. Additionally, the pump can fail to sound an alarm when it should. To date, Animas has received notice of 22 failures thus far. Animas has informed the FDA of the recall.

Mazda recalls 50,000 cars due to spiders

Mazda, the Japanese automaker, is recalling more than 50,000 Mazda6 cars from the 2009-2010 model years in the United States and an additional 15,000 vehicles in Canada, Mexico and Puerto Rico.
The yellow sac spider, which is relatively common in the United States, is attracted to the smell of gasoline- once it smells the gasoline from outside, it will go inside. While inside the gas tank the spider could weave a web in a vent connected to the fuel tank system and clog up the tank's ventilation. Pressure on the fuel tank could lead to a crack, causing fuel leakage and the risk of a fire.
The affected model, the Mazda6, has two pipes coming out from its gas tank, which is extremely rare and means that the smell of gasoline is strong enough to draw the spider in but not strong enough to kill it.
The recall involves vehicles with V4 engines built from April 2008 to February 2010.
Owners will be notified by mid-March and told to take their vehicles to dealers for inspection and repairs. Dealers will inspect and clean up the vent line and install a spring to prevent a spider from entering the vent line.

Texas Windstorm Insurance Agency (TWIA) Now Under Administrative Oversight

Just recently, the Texas Department of Insurance has placed TWIA under administrative oversight. In a February 28, 2011 letter to TWIA, Texas Insurance Commissioner Mike Geeslin laid out a multitude of reasons why regulators believe that TWIA management is not capable of operating the organization "in a safe and sound manner."

"GM to Recall Cadillac CTS"

General Motors has issued a recall of 50,000 Cadillac CTS vehicles across the globe due to a loose joint that can cause a rear wheel to become unstable. This defect could cause the driver to lose control while the vehicle is in motion. According to GM, there have been no accidents reported involving the defect. If you own one of these vehicles, please immediately take the car into a dealership to have the recall work performed. You should also ask the dealership to give you physical proof that the recall work was actually performed.

18 wheeler rear impact guards may not be strong enough

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, many fatal truck accidents are a result of a passenger car sliding under the rear of an 18 wheeler in a crash. In these collisions, known as 'underride' accidents, the windshield of the automobile impacts the deck of the semi trailer often crushing the upper part of the passenger compartment. There can be a high risk of decapitation during these types of accidents.

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