October 14, 2006
Lost in the Dust of 9/11: From society's margins, janitors were drafted for an epic cleanup around ground zero. Then 'the cough' racked their lives.
Interesting extended article in today's Los Angeles Times -- Lost in the Dust of 9/11: From society's margins, janitors were drafted for an epic cleanup around ground zero. Then 'the cough' racked their lives, by Ellen Barry. The article traces the lives of two janitors who assisted in the clean up of the toxic dust in the buildings close to the World Trade Center site. Given the chaos, the city's Department of Environmental Protection did not oversee the removal of the dust, according to the article. The article also mentions a class action against the owners of buildings near the site, and refers to the role of workers compensation benefits. Overall, the article nicely interweaves the human story with the legal themes. Here's an excerpt:
There is no voice left in Manuel Checo's voice. He speaks in a granular rasp that fades,
occasionally, to whispery puffs of air. Sometimes, for periods as long as two days, he is
unable to speak at all.
When that happens, Checo carries a pad of paper with him so he can scribble down notes
if he needs something. But for the most part, he will simply disappear into his rented
room, ignoring his cellphone when it rings.
Checo, a janitor, spent six months cleaning dust from office buildings around ground zero
after the World Trade Center attack. Five years later, the lining of his lungs is pocked with
scars and densities that do not belong there — possibly a sign of a disease that can cause
lung tissue to become so stiff that it can no longer carry oxygen, wrote a radiologist who
examined a scan of his lungs last year.
October 13, 2006
Names that lure kids are going up in smoke: Madigan hails deal with tobacco giant
Article in the Chicago Tribune -- Names that lure kids are going up in smoke: Madigan hails deal with tobacco giant, by Crystal Yednak:
R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. has agreed to stop using candy, fruit and alcohol names
for flavored cigarettes that may appeal to children, Illinois Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan
said Wednesday in announcing a settlement with the company.
The company also agreed to a U.S. ban on Camel, Kool and Salem flavored cigarettes
sold under such names as "Twista Lime" and "Winter MochaMint." R.J. Reynolds may
still produce future brands of flavored cigarettes, but it cannot use candy, fruit or
alcoholic beverages in the name or market them in a way that appeals to youths, Madigan said.
"In marketing their flavored cigarettes, what Reynolds did was really to lure our youth
into smoking by enticing them with candy and candy flavors," Madigan said during a news
conference at a health center on Chicago's West Side.
FDA Review Sought Of Data on Implants: Risks Possibly Minimized, Group Says
Interesting article in today's Washington Post -- FDA Review Sought Of Data on Implants: Risks Possibly Minimized, Group Says, by David Brown:
A consumer activist organization yesterday asked the Food and Drug Administration
to investigate what it considers a possibly criminal attempt to suppress information
about the risks of the new generation of silicone breast implants.
In a letter to the FDA's administrator, Public Citizen said it learned of test results --
some new, some reinterpreted -- from a scientist at implant maker Mentor Corp. who
says he could not persuade his bosses to forward the data to the regulatory agency.
The scientist had worked for 15 years for Mentor, which is based in Santa Barbara,
Calif. He was let go earlier this year in a company reorganization, although he thinks
his protests to superiors were part of the reason.
October 12, 2006
Source of Deadly E. Coli Is Found
Article in today's New York Times -- Source of Deadly E. Coli Is Found, by Libby Sander:
Cattle manure collected from a California ranch under investigation by federal
and state authorities contains the same strain of E. coli that killed three people
and sickened nearly 200 in a recent outbreak linked to tainted spinach, federal
and state food safety officials said Thursday.
“We know where the E. coli comes from,” said Dr. Kevin Reilly of the California
Department of Health Services.
But while the discovery of the match between E. coli in the manure and in the tainted
spinach is an unprecedented development in the scientific investigation of food-borne
illnesses, Dr. Reilly said, it does not solve the mystery of how the spinach was
contaminated in the first place.
October 11, 2006
Mistrial in Prempro Case
In Jennie Nelson v. Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, the court today declared a mistrial and ordered a new trial, according to a report from Reuters -- US judge declares mistrial, overturns Wyeth verdict:
Wyeth on Wednesday said a Philadelphia judge granted its motion to declare a mistrial, overturning last week's verdict against the drug maker in a product liability suit involving one of its hormone replacement drugs.
The mistrial motion was unopposed by the plaintiff, Wyeth said, but it gave no details regarding the basis for the motion, or the reasons for the ruling by judge Norman Ackerman, who presided over the trial.
An attorney quoted in the article stated that the mistrial was due to "extraneous circumstances," but gave no details because the judge's order was under seal.
The Nelson trial had been bifurcated, with the first phase addressing causation and compensatory damages and the second phase addressing liability and possibly punitives. The jury concluded, at the end of phase one, that Prempro was a cause of the plaintiff's breast cancer, and that the amount of damages was $1 million for Nelson and $500,000 for her husband. The second phase was scheduled to begin tomorrow.
W.R. Grace Must Pay Asbestos Costs
Article in today's Los Angeles Times -- Firm Must Pay Asbestos Costs, by Sam Howe Verhovek:
The Supreme Court on Tuesday let stand lower court rulings that require W.R. Grace & Co.
to pay a $54.5-million federal bill for asbestos cleanup in a Montana mining town described
by federal regulators as one of the nation's most contaminated Superfund sites.
The court rejected Grace's appeal of a decision in favor of the Environmental Protection
Agency, which sued Grace five years ago to recover the cleanup costs at a vermiculite
mine in the town of Libby.
The government is also pursuing a criminal case involving several former executives or
managers of the mining company for allegedly concealing health risks at the mine.
The New York Times article, High Court Won't Consider Asbestos Case, from the Associated Press, quotes the Ninth Circuit opinion:
''The situation confronting the EPA in Libby is truly extraordinary,'' the appeals court wrote
in its opinion in December. ''We cannot escape the fact that people are sick and dying as
a result of this continuing exposure.''
Vioxx Lawyers Select Trials, Lead Counsel
Article by Theresa Agovino (AP) in BusinessWeek Online -- Lawyers Select Cases for Vioxx Trial -- reporting that plaintiffs' lawyers met yesterday to select cases to submit for a January joint trial in New Jersey. The submissions are due on Friday to Judge Higbee, who will choose up to ten cases for trial. According to the article, the plaintiffs' lawyers largely agreed on Mark Lanier and Chris Seeger as lead trial counsel. Merck has objected to trying claims jointly on the grounds that Vioxx claims are too individualized to justify aggregate treatment.
In the meantime, the New Jersey Administrative Office of the Courts approved the Atlantic County Civil Division's request for five new employees to handle the crunch of cases; the court now has about 14,000 Vioxx cases.
October 9, 2006
NJ Court Dismisses UK Vioxx Claims
New Jersey Judge Carol Higbee granted Merck's motion to dismiss the Vioxx claims of British citizens on grounds of forum non conveniens. With this memorandum and order, Judge Higbee explained that the U.K. courts are a more appropriate forum for the claims, and ordered that Merck waive the statute of limitations and submit to U.K. jurisdiction.
A BBC news report -- Vioxx patients lose US court bid -- quoted Sallie Booth, a British solicitor who represents nearly 100 Vioxx plaintiffs, who put the dismissal into a comparative procedure perspective:
"This is hugely disappointing for UK victims of this drug. Whilst they should not be forced to look to a foreign jurisdiction to determine their cases, the restricted availability of funding for claimants in group actions in this country, especially public funding is having the effect of denying these people proper access to justice."
In August, Judge Eldon Fallon, overseeing the Vioxx federal MDL, similarly dismissed the claims of French and Italian Vioxx plaintiffs on grounds of forum non conveniens. In combination, these decisions give Merck some comfort that the two judges overseeing the vast majority of Vioxx litigation are uninterested in entertaining foreign claims in U.S. courts.