Archive for November 2009
Substandard Medical Care At London Hospital | Dallas, Texas Personal Injury Attorney Blog
London, England – The Care Quality Commission, the independent NHS inspectorate published findings which said it had “lost confidence” in the management of the trust, after repeated requests to address the problems had failed to deliver results. It is the second time in six months that a foundation trust, a flagship NHS medical institution granted control of its own finances on the strength of its performance, has been found to be delivering sub-standard care suspected of causing hundreds of deaths. Analysis of the hospital board of directors’ meeting minutes suggests it spent little time discussing and challenging information in relation to poor quality of care for patients.
Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, a London, England hospital was cited for poor standards of care at an accident and emergency unit in one of that country’s flagship hospitals. According to an NHS investigation, those poor standards may have contributed to unnecessary deaths of over 400 patients. The investigation also found dirty equipment and an absence of leadership contributed to a death rate almost 40 per cent above the national average. Among the specific problems cited in the report were:
- The unit had blood stains on the floor,
- dirty curtains,
- stinking mattresses, some stained with blood
- soiled equipment,
- nurses who failed to monitor, feed and give drugs to patients correctly; and
- a rate of pressure sores almost twice the national average. Instead of the national four-hour maximum waiting time for A&E, the trust was operating a 10-hour waiting time,
- inadequate arrangements for children,
- breaches of infection control, and
- poor leadership.
In March, the Healthcare Commission – the CQC’s predecessor – exposed a similar scandal at Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, where monitoring of mortality rates showed between 400 and 1,200 more deaths had occurred than the national average in the three years to 2007-08.
Supreme Court Refuses to Reconsider Case Awarding Punitive Damages | Dallas, Texas Personal Injury Attorney Blog
Ford Motor Company’s efforts to challenge a California jury’s award of punitive damages has been lost when the United States Supreme Court declined to hear Ford’s appeal. The case arose from a Ford Explorer rollover accident which left a Mrs. Buell-Wilson paralyzed. She was driving on an interstate east of San Diego in January 2002 when she swerved to avoid a metal object in the roadway. During the maneuver, she lost control of her 1997 Explorer, which rolled over 4 1/2 times. The mother of two children was paralyzed from the waist down when the roof collapsed on her neck and severed her spine. The jury concluded that Ford knew the Explorer had design defects that made it prone to rollovers in emergency maneuvers and to the collapse of its roof during such incidents. Obviously, these problems present safety hazards to the occupants of the Ford Explorers.
Ford Motor Company was challenging the award of $55 million in punitive damages claiming that it should not be punished because its design of the vehicle met federal safety standards. Essentially, Ford Motor Company was claiming that federal standards pre-empted the award of punitive damages. A California state appeals court earlier rejected Ford’s contention and upheld the award to Benetta Buell-Wilson. The jury had initially awarded Buell-Wilson $369 million, including $246 million in punitive damages but the California courts twice cut the size of the punitive damages award.
If you or your loved ones have been seriously injured or killed in a motor vehicle collision, you need to contact an attorney promptly to protect your rights and to investigate whether you may have a valid products liability case. In the case of serious motor vehicle accidents that result in a rollover, such as this Ford Explorer rollover case, it is important to preserve the evidence and to hire a trained investigator to examine the vehicle to determine if there was a manufacturing, design or warning defect with regard to the vehicle. As the Ford Motor Co. v. Buell-Wilson case points out, sometimes even a one-car accident where many people might originally be concerned with the operator error may be a valid case because the vehicle should have been designed in a manner that it could handle sudden movements without rolling over and subjecting occupants to the risk of serious injury or death from a collapsed roof. Contact Rachel Montes or Tom Herald at the Montes Law Group, P.C. for a free, no obligation, case review (214) 522-9401.
Federal Judge Orders Seroquel Cases To Trial | Dallas, Texas Personal Injury Attorney Blog
\AstraZeneca Plc may face as many 6,000 trials of lawsuits claiming its antipsychotic drug Seroquel causes diabetes after a judge said she will recommend sending the cases back to their home courts. U.S. District Judge Anne Conway in Orlando, Florida, who is overseeing pre-trial proceedings in federal Seroquel litigation, said yesterday she’ll urge a panel of judges to return all of the cases to courts across the U.S. for possible trials. In Re Seroquel Products Litigation, 06-MD- 01769, U.S. District Court, Middle District of Florida.
The company faces more than 14,000 suits in U.S. state and federal courts alleging Seroquel caused diabetes in some users. Seroquel, which generated sales of $4.45 billion in 2008, is AstraZeneca’s second-biggest seller after the ulcer treatment Nexium. AstraZeneca officials noted in regulatory filings last month that the drugmaker could face the first trials of Seroquel suits in state courts in Delaware and New Jersey in January. The company also disclosed it has spent $623 million in “legal defense costs” for Seroquel litigation so far.
AstraZeneca, the U.K.’s second-largest drugmaker, wanted Judge Conway to send as many as 60 suits back to their home courts for trial as test cases. Lawyers for former users contended they were ready to press forward on their claims that the London- based company downplayed Seroquel’s diabetes risk.
“While providing the prospect of lifetime employment for AstraZeneca’s attorneys, AstraZeneca’s plan is also plainly designed to permit AstraZeneca to prolong resolution of this litigation,” Camp Bailey, a Houston-based lawyer for Seroquel users, said in a Nov. 6 court filing.
Patients Rights to Sue Doctors For Malpractice Is Being Challenged | Dallas, Texas Personal Injury Attorney Blog
While the Texas Supreme Court considers two very similar cases (Walters v. Cleveland Regional Medical Center, and Methodist Healthcare System v. Rankin) involving medical malpractice of doctors, nurses and hospitals for leaving sponges inside a patient, the Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has filed a brief with the Texas Supreme Court urging the Court to dismiss the lawsuit filed by Emmalene Rankin. Emmalene Rankin discovered a surgical sponge lodged against her colon 10 years and eight months after her hysterectomy.
The two Supreme Court cases belong to a special class of medical malpractice claims known as “sponge cases” – cases where foreign objects are improperly left inside the patient following a surgical procedure. Unlike many lawsuits about mis-diagnoses or mistreatment, in sponge cases there is no question that a medical mistake was made and usually no question about who was responsible. As a result, the doctors and hospitals involved in these cases are very likely to be held responsible if they cannot get the Court to dismiss the claims for technical reasons.
Emmalene Rankin’s Case:
In 1995, Emmalene Rankin had a hysterectomy at Southwest Texas Methodist Hospital in San Antonio. Ten years and eight months later, after pain sent her to a succession of doctors, a surgeon finally discovered the cause of her medical problems, an old surgical sponge that had been left inside her from her 1995 surgery was lodged in her abdomen.
Rankin filed a lawsuit against the hospital and two doctors, but the judge dismissed the lawsuit for violating the statute of repose, enacted in 2003 by the Texas legislature as part of “tort reform” legislation designed to lower medical and insurance costs by reducing the number of malpractice lawsuits and limiting the size of malpractice awards. According to the statute of repose enacted in 2003, “all claims must be brought within 10 years or they are time barred.” The Court of Appeals re-instated the lawsuit last year ruling that the statute of repose violated the Texas Constitution’s “Open Courts” provision. The Court of Appeals ruled that while “the Legislature is certainly entitled to set a period of time within which claims must be brought, but it may not deny a plaintiff a reasonable opportunity to discover the alleged wrong and bring suit.”
Attorneys for the hospital and doctors being sued claim that the legislature intended to limit the time period that these claims can be brought. However, Rankin’s lawyers point out that the intent of the legislature is irrelevant if the law violates the Constitution. The Texas Constitution trumps legislative power, patients must be given a chance to discover their injury before losing their constitutional right to access the court system, he argued.
This issue points out the issue on our legal system that the Constitution is the supreme law of the land, and the legislature does not have the power to enact laws that violate the Constitution. On other tort reform issues, the insurance companies and doctors’ lobbies realized that the tort reform issues presented a constitutional problem so they brought the issue to the voters of the State of Texas by asking the voters to approve a constitutional amendment which enabled the legislature to enact the tort reform measures that limited damage awards.
Tangie Walters’ Case:
Tangie Walters case is also a sponge case. In 1995, after giving birth to her child, Tangie Walters had a tubal ligation to prevent future pregnancies. Following the surgery, Mrs. Walters report abdominal pain that nurses at Cleveland Regional Medical Center dismissed as gas pains. In addition, Dr. Keith Spooner indicated that abdominal cramps were caused by uterine contractions from breast feeding, prompting Walters to bottle-feed her child. Over the next 9½ years, Walters visited several doctors to treat chronic abdominal pain and other ailments – bladder and lymph node infections, vaginal bleeding, pneumonia-like symptoms and fatigue. In 2005, a surgeon finally discovered the cause of her problems. The doctor found a sponge lodged against her small intestine. When these sponges and gauzes are left inside a patient after surgery, they can damage organs and produce inflammations, abscesses or a fibrous buildup that can be mistaken for a tumor.
Walters sued Spooner, the hospital and a nurse, but a Houston-area trial court dismissed the lawsuit for violating the statute of limitations. Walters appealed, arguing that the two-year time limit violated the Texas Constitution’s open courts provision – which guarantees access to the legal system for those with a valid claim – because she did not have a legitimate chance to discover the cause of her chronic illnesses. The Court of Appeals dismissed the lawsuit and blamed Mrs. Walters for failing to diligently investigate the cause of her pain. Although the pain presented a reasonable opportunity to discover the sponge before the legal deadline, the court said, Walters waited two years and three months to begin seeing a succession of doctors.
“Pain itself can be an indicator of injury,” the court ruled.
Each year, scores of lawsuits against medical professionals are dismissed because the Court finds that the patient did not bring the lawsuit in a timely manner. Often, such as in Mrs. Walters’ case, the issue is whether the patient should have discovered the problem sooner and brought the lawsuit in a more timely manner. These issues are extremely difficult and complex, and greatly favor the medical professionals as patients do not have the ability and resources to diagnose themselves, and even the medical professionals they see for their problems often cannot determine the source of the problem for an extended period of time. Then, even when the problem is located, the procedural legal hurdles that have been put in place that are designed to discourage lawsuits from being filed against medical professionals take a substantial amount of time to complete before the attorney can even decide if a lawsuit is appropriate.
Richard Sheehy a lawyer for one of the hospitals involved in these two cases argues that patients should not be given an opportunity to discover the wrong-doing of medical professionals and to hold them accountable for their actions by urging the Supreme Court to create an absolute two-year limit on all medical malpractice lawsuits, whether or not the injury could be discovered before the time limit passed. “I certainly believe this court may decide that … the Legislature may impose a strict two-year statute of limitations, and ‘we’re sorry that it may cause problems for a limited number of people, but we believe the legislative intent and public policy (benefits) of the two-year statute outweighs the problems that it might cause.”
In the end, these should be cases about providing the Constitutional guarantees to citizens of our state, but the political forces including the efforts of the Texas Attorney General are obviously at play in these matters as there is no explanation as to what the State’s interest is to justify why the Texas Attorney General would try to get involved to lobby for doctors and hospitals in a private lawsuit. The concern about political influence is very real when examining the track record of the Texas Supreme Court over the past few years in protecting patient’s and consumer’s rights against big business, corporate defendants, and medical professionals.
Class Action Lawsuits Against Credit Card Companies Filed | Dallas, Texas Personal Injury Attorney Blog
A Rhode Island woman is suing Citibank, claiming the financial giant is trying to squeeze money out of its credit-card customers in advance of changes in federal law due to take place in February 2010. In July 2009, Citibank notified Murphy that it was raising the variable annual percentage rate on her card to 29.99 percent, despite that her account was in good standing and that her original credit agreement does not expire until April 30, 2010. The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court earlier this week by Providence lawyer Peter N. Wasylyk on behalf of Portsmouth resident Michol K. Murphy states that Citibank has violated the terms of her credit-card agreement by jacking up the annual percentage rate on her account without cause.
Meanwhile a lawsuit against Citizens Financial Group claims that ATM withdrawals and debit transactions are a trap into which unwary customers fall.
Following an uproar about the questionable actions of credit card companies and banks, the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility, and Disclosure Act was passed in May 2009 to protect consumers. A copy of that Act is attached.
CBS 11 Report On Dangerous Driving Zones for 18 Wheeler Accidents | Dallas, Texas Personal Injury Attorney Blog
CBS 11 News ran a report on dangerous driving zones in the Dallas Fort Worth area. Below, is a link to the story and the video. (Article no longer available online)
Below are a few of the highlights of the CBS report:
- Texas leads the nation in accidents involving 18 wheelers;
- The most deadly stretch of highway was from I-20 from Benbrook to Balch Springs (14 deaths);
- The most deadly highway intersection was at I-35E and I-20 (4 deaths);
- The most non-fatal truck accidents on I-30 near Cockrell Hill;
- Dallas County had the most fatality accidents in the past 5 years than any other county in Texas with 75 deaths;
- From I-45 in downtown Dallas to I-20 (5 fatalities I the past 5 years);
- I-30 from Fort Worth to Dallas (12 fatalities over the past 5 years); and
- I-35W to Highway 114 (14 non-fatal accidents)
In addition, according to a NTSB study, 90% of the crashes involving 18 wheelers were attributed to driver error. In addition, a TxDoT study showed that restricting 18 wheelers from driving in the left lane resulted in a dramatic decline in the number of accidents involving 18 wheelers.