Truck Driver Dies in I-15 Crash

The driver of a semi tractor-trailer died this past Monday. Dale Eugene Thompson of Hazelton, Idaho, lost control of his truck and crashed through a guard rail in Davis County, Utah. The truck fell 50 feet from a freeway overpass onto the railroad tracks below, killing Mr. Thompson instantly. He was 62 years old.

Thompson was hauling a load of hay when he lost control of the vehicle around 12:05 pm according to the Utah Highway Patrol. He had been traveling southbound on I-15, and lost control on the connecting ramp between I-15 and I-215 southbound, sending the truck out of control over the guard rail.

The Utah Highway Patrol said the trucking accident is still under investigation, and have not commented as to whether tiredness or alcohol intoxication may have been involved in the accident. No one else was hurt in the crash, although the crash would clearly have hampered railway traffic until the vehicle and debris were removed from the accident site.

This kind of accident is tragic and illustrates the difficulty that semi truck drivers can have in keeping their vehicles under proper control. Sharp turns, unexpected winds or poor road conditions can all contribute to hampering any driver’s control over his or her vehicle, and the effects are much more extreme for semi drivers due to the huge vehicles they must operate.

The investigation has not yet reported how much the damage done to the guard rail or the railroad tracks will cost, or how long it will take to repair. Drivers using this ramp from I-15 to 215 are urged to use caution when making their way around the area for several days.

This accident points out how drivers must exercise caution around semi trucks. These large vehicles can unexpectedly go off course for any number of reasons, potentially endangering the lives of all other drivers and passengers around them.

Florida A&M University Hazing Death Details Revealed in Lawsuit

The parents of Florida A&M University (FAMU) band member, Robert Champion, have filed a wrongful death suit as of last Monday; specifically against the owner and driver of the charter bus where they allege a brutal hazing ritual took place. The lawsuit maintains that the company’s managers have told drivers to ignore hazing rituals among students.

The lawsuit further alleges that the driver of the bus stood guard outside the vehicle the night Champion died. The driver allegedly forced the drum major back onto the bus after Champion got off the bus in order to vomit, although the suit does not stipulate how Champion was forced to do so.

Fabulous Coach Lines owner, Ray Land, sent an email saying that he needed time to prepare a statement regarding the case. Last year, he told the Associated Press that the driver was helping students unload instruments when Champion fell over.

The suit further reveals new details regarding the hazing that Champion allegedly suffered before he died. Two types of hazing were mentioned. In the first, pledges of the band clique Bus C were forced to run a gauntlet from the front of the bus to the back while other band members attacked them with slaps, kicks, hits and trips. Pledges who fell were stomped, then dragged to the front of the bus in order to make them run the gauntlet again.

The second ritual was called ‘the hot seat,’ in which a pillow case is placed over the pledge’s face while forcing them to answer questions. Answering a question correctly allowed the pledge to breathe for a moment before the next question was asked, while failing to provide the correct answer meant the pledge had to answer a new question without the mask being removed.

“Am I suggesting that this bus driver hit him? No,” Champion family attorney, Chris Chestnut, said. “Am I suggesting that she knowingly aided and abetted? She opened a bus, it was running, the air condition is on. If that’s not participation, then I don’t know.”

The school’s board of governors, overseeing Florida’s 11 public universities, opened an investigation this past November into allegations FAMU officials had ignored prior warnings about hazing incidents. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is conducting its own separate investigation into the band’s finances.

Yet Another Plaintiff Files Yaz Gallbladder Disease Lawsuit

Terry L. Damm has a filed a Yaz lawsuit, claiming that the controversial birth control pill caused her to develop gallbladder disease that eventually forced her to have her gallbladder removed.

Damm’s lawsuit was filed on February 3, 2012, in the Superior Court for the State of California — the same day as another woman’s, Kristina Bishop’s, who filed her lawsuit for the same reason. Both of the women’s lawsuits are claiming that Bayer, the makers of the controversial birth control pill, failed to properly warn them of the dangers linked to the drug.

In Damm’s complaint, the 37-year-old is claiming she had to undergo surgery on March 8, 2010, to remove her gallbladder, and she is blaming Yaz for her condition. Research has proven that gallbladder disease is directly linked to Yaz use in some patients. Other serious side effects are also caused by Yaz. Those side effects include heart attacks, strokes and blood clots that can lead to pulmonary embolisms and deep vein thrombosis.

For its part, Bayer continues to maintain that its pills are no more dangerous than other birth control pills that don’t contain drospirenone, the main ingredient in Yaz and Yasmin. Because blood clots have been linked to Yaz, the FDA held a panel advisory meeting; however, the panel voted that the benefits outweighed the risks in taking Yaz. This decision by the panel caused a controversy when it was discovered that some of the panelists had financial ties to Bayer. This link has caused many people to call for a new panel meeting to be held, but so far, that announcement hasn’t come. Until it does, patients will continue to file Yaz lawsuits in the hopes of holding Bayer liable for their injuries.

Minnesota Yaz Lawsuit Filed over Deep Vein Thrombosis

Blood clots and deep vein thrombosis were the subject of a recent Yaz lawsuit that was filed on February 7 in the Minnesota District Court by plaintiff Jamee Schaefer-Oney.

Schaefer-Oney’s complaint states that Bayer, the makers of Yaz, didn’t properly warn her of Yaz’s dangers before she started taking the pill. After taking Yaz, Schaefer-Oney developed a pulmonary embolism, which is a commonly known side effect of the drug. Her condition occurred within months of her taking Yaz.

Her complaint specifically says that Bayer Healthcare Pharmaceuticals, “did not provide adequate warnings to doctors, the healthcare community and the general public about the increased risk of serious adverse events.” Bayer has continued to maintain that Yaz, Yasmin and other drospirenone-based pills are no more dangerous to take than older pills that don’t contain drospirenone. This stubbornness by Bayer has caused the FDA to force the company to issue stronger warnings against Yaz and Yasmin, but to the patients that have already suffered from the debilitating conditions caused by the pills, those warnings came too late.

Some of the side effects that have been linked to Yaz include: heart attacks, strokes, gallbladder disease and blood clots that can lead to pulmonary embolisms and deep vein thrombosis. Early in February, two other women filed Yaz lawsuits after they claim that the pills caused them to suffer from gallbladder disease that required surgery to have their gallbladder’s removed. February has been a big month for Yaz lawsuits to be filed and it doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon. If you have suffered from any of the side effects linked to Yaz, you may want to contact an attorney to see what your options are.

While lawsuits can’t correct the damage that these dangerous drugs cause, the can help to hold big name drug companies like Bayer accountable for their irresponsible actions in trying to promote their drug’s off label uses while hiding the dangers from consumers and healthcare professionals.

Seventh Circuit Finds Truck Owner’s Insurance Liable in Fatal Crash Involving Mechanic – Coca-Cola Enterprises et al. v. ATS Enterprises et al.

As a southern Illinois tractor-trailer accident lawyer, I was interested to see a recent appeals court decision stemming from a catastrophic trucking accident that took place in the region. In Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc. and ACE American Insurance Co. v. ATS Enterprises et al., the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decided that Coca-Cola, the owner of a truck involved in a fatal crash, and its insurance company should be held legally liable to the victims. The question arose because the truck was being driven at the time by Daniel Zacha, an employee of contractor S&S Service Co., which maintained and repaired trucks at the Coca-Cola bottling plant in Mattoon, Ill. The victim’s estate ultimately settled an Illinois wrongful death lawsuit for $1.9 million, but the companies and their insurers fought over who was liable for the payment.
S&S usually serviced the trucks at the site of the Coca-Cola plant, but sometimes had an employee drive them to its shop. Zacha was doing that when he failed to yield during a left turn, causing a fatal head-on collision with a minivan. The victim was not identified, but his or her estate sent an initial demand letter to Universal Underwriters Insurance Co., the insurer for S&S. This set off a debate between Universal and the insurer for Coca-Cola, ACE American Insurance Co., but Universal ultimately agreed to take the lead in negotiations with the estate. While it settled for $1.9 million, ACE and Coca-Cola filed suit in Illinois for a declaratory judgment that they were not liable for the amount of the judgment. The Illinois federal district court found that state law makes Coca-Cola’s policy with ACE the primary insurance, and in fact that Universal’s policy did not apply. It granted summary judgment for the Universal defendants, and the ACE defendants appealed.
The Seventh Circuit ultimately upheld the determination that ACE’s policy was primary, although it disagreed that Universal’s policy did not apply. The material facts are not disputed, it noted; it need only settle the question of which policies apply and which insurer has primacy under Illinois law. It’s undisputed that the ACE policy applies, it said. Though the policy says it excludes someone using a truck while servicing or repairing that truck, this is not permissible under Illinois law, the court said; thus, Zacha was a permissive user. The Universal policy is harder to apply because it covers only an “owned auto,” the court said, but an “owned auto” includes an auto “not owned by you… when used in your business.” This surely must apply to the circumstances of the crash, the Seventh reasoned. Thus, both policies apply. Furthermore, the court noted, Illinois law prioritizes the owner of the vehicle over its operator. ACE argued that S&S should have primacy because it is a tow-truck operator required by statute to cover accidents involving others’ vehicles, but the court rejected this as an overly broad reading of the tow-truck statute. Thus, it upheld the district court’s determination that ACE and Coca-Cola should pay.
This is a good position for a St. Louis semi truck accident attorney like me to be in, because no matter who wins, the injured family is likely to get the financial recovery it’s legally entitled to. S&S was well insured enough to pay the judgment; and while Coca-Cola had a $5 million deductible with ACE, it has deep enough pockets to make even a $5 million award affordable. Not every accident victim is lucky enough to be in this position, unfortunately. A defendant trucking company may try to cut expenses by self-insuring, then go out of business after it becomes responsible for a very serious accident. It’s also possible that defendants with the best ability to pay may be excluded, leaving no insurance or insufficient insurance left to cover catastrophic damages. That’s why, as a Missouri big rig accident lawyer, I work hard to ensure that every applicable defendant is included in my cases.

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Connecticut Woman Files Yasmin Lawsuit

A woman from Connecticut has filed a Yaz lawsuit after she was hospitalized for eight days because of a Yasmin-related diagnosis of deep vein thrombosis.

Kathleen Benanti began taking Yasmin in 2004. She switched to Yaz in 2007. By February 6, 2010, Benanti stopped taking the pills when she was brought to a hospital for an eight-day stay after she was found to be suffering from injuries that were caused by a massive bilateral pulmonary embolism and deep vein thrombosis. Both of those conditions have been proven to be side effects of the drospirenone-based birth control pills.

Benanti decided to file her lawsuit on January 25, 2012, in the United States District Court (New York Southern). The suit is alleging the same thing that many other Yaz lawsuits claims — that Bayer, the makers of Yaz and Yasmin, “intentionally underplayed serious Yaz side effects by excluding side effects information from marketing and promotional materials.”

Bayer has been accused of keeping the side effects linked to the drugs quiet for quite some time now. Some of the side effects proven to be linked to the pills include heart attacks, strokes, gallbladder disease and blood clots that can lead to pulmonary embolisms and deep vein thrombosis. Many of these side effects have been the subject of articles posted in various medical journals, including the British Medical Journal.

Benanti’s case is just one of the thousands that have been filed against Bayer, but the drug company continues to stand behind its pills by claiming that they are no more dangerous than other birth control pills that don’t contain drospirenone. Clearly with the number of lawsuits against the company, combined with the blizzard of evidential studies backing up plaintiff injury claims, Bayer’s defense is quickly running out of steam. In the end, only verdicts will really decide who’s correct.

Internal Messages Show Johnson and Johnson Lied About Safety Studies on Hip Replacement

I wrote this month as a defective medical device attorney about a lawsuit involving an allegedly defective hip replacement implant. So a recent article about a different implant and its defects caught my eye when it ran in the New York Times this week. The newspaper reported that Johnson & Johnson emails reveal internal discussions about significant numbers of failures of the DePuy ASR artificial hip. That stands in sharp contrast to public statements made by the company that no studies showed signs of problems. The hip was ultimately not approved by the FDA or sold in the United States, but it was sold abroad and implanted in an estimated 93,000 patients before its safety recall. A companion version of the product that was sold in the United States, and was recalled at the same time after use in 30,000 American patients.
The DePuy ASR hip is made entirely of metal, which was one of the novel things about it. Unfortunately, the device sheds metallic debris with use, the newspaper said, leading to injuries to patients. It also failed much faster than conventional hip implants — within a few years, instead of after 15 years or more. As a result, the company now faces more than 5,000 lawsuits over the safety of the recalled hip implant models. In defenses against those cases, and in at least one earlier statement to the Times, Johnson & Johnson had said the FDA had not found any safety issues with the implants, and that its internal studies refuted the concerns raised by independent studies. But in the newly released messages, a company executive reported internally that the FDA planned to not approve the implants due to significant numbers of failures.
As a dangerous medical device lawyer, I’d like to point out that this new information comes from the pending litigation against Johnson & Johnson over the hip implants. Regardless of whether those plaintiffs ultimately prevail, the messages should help them in court because they clearly contradict public statements by the company’s executives. No federal law required Johnson & Johnson to publicize the FDA’s rejection letter, but it’s clear from that letter’s existence that the company has not told the truth to the public — and that’s what matters in lawsuits like these. For example, the Times reports that internal documents say executives did not believe they could overcome the FDA’s objections to the rejected device, even with new data. Nonetheless, the company said in 2009 and recently that its decision not to sell this device in the U.S. was based on declining overseas sales.
At Carey, Danis & Lowe, we focus our practice on patients who have suffered injuries or a loss in the family because of defective or dangerous pharmaceutical products. All manufacturers have a legal duty to ensure that their products are safe when they offer them to the public; if they know of safety risks, they must warn potential users of those risks. When manufacturers seem to be covering up a safety risk by misleading the public into making potentially dangerous medical decisions, people who get hurt have the right to hold them legally and financially liable. Our pharmaceutical liability attorneys based in St. Louis represent clients across the United States who are pursuing individual or class actions against these companies. We help clients win the money they need to get medical treatment, make up for lost income and more.

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Montana Supreme Court Finds Plaintiff in Highway Safety Case May Not Sue Without Expert Testimony – Dubiel v. Montana Department of Transportation

As a Missouri auto accident attorney, I know how difficult it is to sue a state agency. Defendants that are government agencies are free to make special rules to protect themselves from liability, usually meaning shorter deadlines to sue, special notice requirements and more. Because these cases often allege a negligent lack of focus on safety, they often require the support of expert testimony, which means plaintiffs also must ensure they have a safety expert who will explain the issues to a jury of laypersons and meet the court’s standards. This was the sticking point for Keevy Dubiel in Dubiel v. Montana Department of Transportation. She lost her husband, Jerome Dubiel, when he was temporarily stopped on the highway during a storm and a tree fell on his car. The Montana Supreme Court affirmed that Dubiel needed expert testimony to establish the standard of care the state should have used.
Jerome Dubiel was stopped on Montana’s Highway 35 because of a windstorm that had blown trees and power lines and poles onto the road. The Montana Department of Transportation was on the road clearing these obstacles, forcing him to wait. As he waited, however, another tree fell on his vehicle, killing him. Shortly afterward, the MDT closed the highway altogether, although it claims in this case that it did not know of the death when it made that decision. About 18 months later, Keevy Dubiel filed suit against the MDT on behalf of herself, the estate of her husband and their two minor children. She alleged that the MDT’s failure to close the road earlier was negligence that led to his death. She retained an expert to establish the family’s economic losses, but not one to establish the standard of care that the MDT should have used. The MDT eventually moved for summary judgment, saying Dubiel could not prove her case without an expert. Dubiel countered that no expert was required because the MDT’s own policies set forth the appropriate standard of care. The trial court found for the MDT and granted summary judgment.
The Montana Supreme Court upheld that decision, finding an expert is necessary to establish the standard of care for road closures. As with all negligence lawsuits, the court said, Dubiel must show the MDT owed her family a duty of care and breached that duty; this requires establishing a standard of care the agency breached. Dubiel argued that the standard is clearly laid out in MDT policies and procedures for road closures, which expressly mention high wind; she claims a jury does not need an expert to explain that conditions are not safe when high winds are blowing trees onto the road, where they land on cars. By contrast, the MDT argued that the average person cannot know what factors it must take into account when closing roads, including the capacity of other roads to handle rerouted traffic and the disruption to local travel. The high court agreed. The numerous interrelated factors affecting the MDT’s decisions aren’t readily obvious and can’t be derived from its official policy, the court said. Thus, the trial court was right to find that Dubiel cannot prove her case without an expert witness, the Supreme Court said.
As a St. Louis car crash lawyer, I sympathize with Dubiel’s position. For someone standing on a road with downed trees, the danger would indeed seem very obvious. The court found that factors other than those a motorist can easily observe also matter, however. The most damaging thing about this decision is that Dubiel may not now re-file her lawsuit and try again, because she has already lost it once. It’s only under rare circumstances that plaintiffs may pursue the same case more than once, and those circumstances are generally extraordinary, such as when they were victims of deception. As a result, it’s absolutely vital for plaintiffs and southern Illinois motor vehicle accident attorneys to make sure their cases are solid the first time around.

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Reglan Lawsuit Continues Despite Motion to Dismiss

Recently, one North Carolina woman’s Reglan lawsuit was continued despite the fact that there was a motion to dismiss the case filed by the defendant.

This case was filed against the manufacturers of a generic version of Reglan. The original makers of the name brand version of Reglan are Wyeth and Schwarz Pharma. However, it was the generic manufacturers Actavis and PLIVA that have been trying to avoid lawsuits. Defense lawyers have been relying on a Supreme Court ruling made in 2011 that removes generic drug manufacturers from liability from injury claims to have their cases dismissed. But on January 11, 2012, a federal court judge refused the motion.

The continuing case was filed by Mary Cleo Couick, who sued all four of the companies amid claims that their warning labels as well as package inserts did not properly warn the public or healthcare professionals of Reglan’s link to tardive dyskinesia, a common adverse side effect of the drug. Tardive dyskinesia is a movement disorder that is characterized by patients experiencing involuntary movements of the extremities, lip smacking, grimacing, tongue protruding and other Parkinson’s-like symptoms.

Couick’s lawsuit forced the judge to have to decide whether the drug label requirements “preempted Couick’s state law tort claims.” The judge in Couick’s case ruled in favor of a dismissal against her claims against Wyeth and Schwarz Pharma, but would not do the same for PLIVA and Actavis. The judge’s ruling held that “the generic manufacturers had not provided any proof that they used the same labeling information as Wyeth and Schwarz during the period at issue in Couick’s Reglan side effects lawsuit.”

The ruling in this case provides hope for future claimants, who may have been discouraged by a recent ruling to dismiss in another Reglan case. It just goes to show that each case is different and all claims have merit. There is no way to be able to predict the outcome of any trial since all circumstances are different.

Triplet Killed, Others Injured in NJ Elementary School Bus Crash

Most trucking accidents discussed tend to involve semi trucks on highways, but one type of truck often overlooked in such accidents is the dump truck. Comparable in size and mass to a tractor-trailer, dump trucks are just as dangerous on the roads as other such vehicles, as a crash on Thursday, February 16 tragically demonstrated.

According to reports, the dump truck collided with the side of a school bus full of elementary school children at a four way intersection around 8 am. It is unclear whether the bus was attempting to turn or to cross the intersection, but the impact of the truck sent the school bus sideways into a traffic light post. The most tragic part of the accident is that one girl — a triplet daughter of New Jersey state trooper Sgt. Anthony Tezsla — was killed in the crash, and both of her triplet sisters were critically injured. In addition to the one death, 17 children were injured, three critically: the two triplets and Jonathan Zdybel.

Apparently the children in the bus were wearing seat belts at the time of the accident, but several were reportedly thrown into the aisle by the impact.

Police say that no charges have been filed in the crash, as the investigation is not yet complete.

Members of the state, including Governor Christie himself, expressed their sympathies to the families who suffered injuries and loss in the accident.

What the accident most clearly demonstrates is that trucking accidents — whatever the type of truck — are not limited to causing pileups or spectacular crashes on the interstate and highway systems. This accident took place in a small town of about 8,000 residents, on town roads. Accidents can happen anywhere and at any time.