TortsProf Blog

Editor: Christopher J. Robinette
Widener Univ. School of Law

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Saturday, December 9, 2006

Indeed, That Might Suggest a Teensy-Weensy Conflict of Interest

An NIH worker pleaded guilty to charges relating to a small moderate rather huge bunch of payments
from Pfizer.

Sunderland, 55, admitted to entering consulting agreements with the drugmaker beginning in 1998 without receiving the required approval in advance or disclosing his income after the fact. Sunderland was paid as a consultant on two projects in which his department was collaborating with Pfizer on research to identify chemical warning signs of Alzheimer's disease.

He will pay back the $285,000 he received plus some expenses.  The government is asking for probation.  Sunderland remains on the job, though lawmakers are urging NIH to change that.  Since NIH does not approve drugs (as noted, it was collaborating with Pfizer on these issues), there are no allegations of improper regulatory decisions that I've seen.

Ten other NIH scientists have been referred for possible prosecution.

December 9, 2006 in Experts & Science | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, December 8, 2006

Chromium-Cancer Followup

Back in June, I posted an entry about the retraction of an article apparently drafted by an outfit called ChemRisk with funding from Pacific Gas & Electric, who was at the same time defending products suits relating to the product at issue (chromium).  The funding was not disclosed in the article; that failure of disclosure was the reason for retracting the article, following an exposé by the Wall Street Journal.

Well, now, one of the authors of the paper is claiming (note: that's a press release) that the WSJ article was false and defamatory and is demanding the paper's reinstatement by the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

It's a fascinating story, and, rather than trying to give you all the details, I'll just point you to this post at The Pump Handle, written by David Michaels, the head of the Project on Scientific Knowledge and Public Policy (SKAPP).

December 8, 2006 in Experts & Science, Products Liability | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

A New Era in Mass Torts?

Our sister blog the Mass Tort Litigation Blog has a useful analysis and links to some American Lawyer thinking on the subject.

December 8, 2006 in MDLs and Class Actions, Products Liability | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, December 7, 2006

E. coli and Specialization

The recent Taco Bell E. coli outbreak has triggered some discussion of lawyers who "own" a particular area of law (of course there is an E. coli law blog, for instance).  It reminded me of something I've been meaning to mention here:

A recent ABA Journal article (which appears to no longer be online) discussed the impact of the various changes to the law relating to medical malpractice in Texas.  A bunch of lawyers, both plaintiff- and defense-side, have had to completely change their practice, and there's some anecdotal evidence that it's really changing other areas of law.  The story mentioned a fellow who does some relatively obscure area of law involving employers who opt out of workers' comp insurance, and whose practice was, I guess, a friendly little area of law.

He reported that a bunch of med mal lawyers have come in and made the cases much more complicated and contentious, with more document requests, depositions, and a generally more aggressive approach.  Maybe that's good -- perhaps it was an area that needed more aggressive lawyering -- but it's certainly an interesting potential side effect of changes in one area of law.  Last month, I spoke to defense lawyers in the amusement industry and suggested that a combination of factors, including specialty-specific tort reform measures, might cause some more aggressive lawyering in their area too.

So: Is there other indication that this is happening?  Is this the legal equivalent of Whac-a-Mole?  Will lawyers who currently "own" a specialty start seeing more invasions?

December 7, 2006 in Current Affairs, Legislation, Reforms, & Political News, Products Liability | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Do What We Say In That Label, Not What We Say In That Marketing Material

Yes, it's "edible ammo," but it's not "ammo that you should actually eat."  The Marshmallow Shooter directs: "Do not eat marshmallows after shooting."

More at The Consumerist.

Incidentally, how awesome is it that a company exists called "The Marshmallow Fun Company"?  The breadth of products must be mindblowing.

Also: Aren't you glad you don't write press releases like this one as your job?  "Introducing the Marshmallow Blaster and Marshmallow Blower, giving you two new excuses to have your fun, and eat it, too!"  Indeed.

December 6, 2006 in Products Liability | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

That Might Be Just a Tad Beyond the Limitations Period

...or at least it would be if she filed a lawsuit:

An 81-year-old Kerrville [Texas] woman was arrested Tuesday on charges she sent letters to Hall of Fame NFL quarterback Bart Starr in an effort to extort $2 million from him.

A typed, computer-generated letter that authorities contend Ruby Y. Young mailed alleges a vague encounter with Starr in 1960. But the former MVP of the first two Super Bowls denies even knowing the woman, according to a criminal complaint affidavit filed against Young in Birmingham, Ala.

* * *

"And now, the time has come for you to pay -- to pay for the many injuries you caused me. ... No I am not a push-over Mr. Starr -- and no, I do not need the money -- but I intend to see that you pay for your wrong doings (sic) to me ...," said the first letter, dated Oct. 30, 2006, which an agent quoted in part in the affidavit. "How much is it worth to preserve this 'image' presented to the public these many years of who and what you are?"

[via Deadspin]

December 6, 2006 in Goofy Cases | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

I'm Gonna Go With "That's a Good Reason for a Recall."

Per the CPSC announcement:

The scope mount on these [GAMO air] rifles can be installed incorrectly, causing the rifle to unexpectedly fire. This poses a serious injury hazard to consumers.

Perhaps of interest, the GAMO page addressing the device has the most current date of September 20, 2006.  Evidently it took a couple of months to decide that this issue warranted a recall rather than just a safety notice.

December 6, 2006 in Products Liability | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

FairPlay.org

Not the DRM, but a website in Georgia addressing civil justice issues.  From the comment drawing my attention to it:

I'm implementing values-based issues management in Georgia to change the nature of public discourse on tort reform and other attacks on the legal system (in other words, make them care about civil justice, when studies show they don't) with good results. Check out the website I just launched for Georgia Civil Justice Foundation at www.fairplay.org. Feedback encouraged: nina@cranebrandwork.com.

Crane Brand Work, which is running the campaign and the site, was hired by GCJF and has an interesting discussion at its website about the process of creating the campaign - click on "Justice" at their site and follow the links.  (It's all Flash so I can't direct-link.)

December 6, 2006 in Legislation, Reforms, & Political News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Comparing Malpractice Claim Rates

A new SSRN posting from Kevin Hart (University of Rochester medical school) and Philip G. Peters Jr. (Missouri-Columbia Law) addresses the relative rates of medical malpractice claims within a state - in particular New York.  The abstract:

While several studies have examined rates of malpractice claims at state levels, there is little systematic work looking at variations of claiming rates within a state. This study reports on small area variations in malpractice claims rates within New York State over a 14 year period. Counties with high rates generally had high rates over the entire period, while counties with low rates maintained low rates. Rates across counties varied considerably, with an almost 5 times difference between the rates for the lowest county and the highest county. In a multivariate analysis of potential factors influencing a county's rate, median family income was one of the strongest factors positively associated with the claims rate. A measure of the risk of hospital admissions for an adverse outcome also had a strong association with the county's malpractice claims rate, but the risk factor was negatively associated with high claims rates, perhaps suggesting an association with quality of care and malpractice claims. The number of lawyers per capita was weakly, but positively, associated with the claims rate.

December 6, 2006 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, December 4, 2006

Clinical Trial Litigation

The WSJ Law Blog has a good rundown of the potential exposure to Pfizer relating to the shutdown of clinical trials on its HDL-elevating drug Torcetrapib.  As you'd expect, there's both potential tort litigation (though the clinical trial releases are likely broad enough to protect against most of that) and securities litigation.

Update: FDA has its press release up.

December 4, 2006 in Products Liability | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

DRI Conference

I don't think I already mentioned this -- I'm presenting my forthcoming Nebraska Law Review article, probably along with some parts of an in-progress piece about historians, ethicists, and such as proffered experts, at the DRI Toxic Torts conference in New Orleans in March.

The program includes some pretty interesting items, including a discussion of nuisance law in environmental litigation, other discussion of historians as experts, standards for evaluating science, and more.

December 4, 2006 in Experts & Science, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Bloomberg: Stent Experts Have Ties to Industry

The FDA is probing the safety of drug-coated stents after some data indicate an increased risk of blood clots among patients with the stents.  Bloomberg reports that six of the experts on the panel put together to consider the data have financial ties to J&J or Boston Scientific, two stent-makers.  The FDA has waived conflicts rules to permit them on the panel.

December 4, 2006 in Experts & Science, Products Liability | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, December 3, 2006

Station Documents

I mentioned earlier the release of documents in The Station nightclub fire.  The AP writer involved points out to me that the original documents are available in PDF form on the Rhode Island AG's site.

December 3, 2006 in Current Affairs, Documents, Teaching Torts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Preemption Denied in Medtronic Implant MDL

The Houston Chronicle has the AP story.  No indication on the court's website for the MDL yet.

(I clerked for the judge overseeing the MDL.)

December 3, 2006 in Products Liability | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)