Recently in Product Liability Category

January 4, 2012

Maryland attorneys attempt to seize housing authority property to fulfill lead paint judgment

truck.jpgArmed with an unsatisfied $2.59 million judgment against the Housing Authority of Baltimore City for lead paint liability, which has since accumulated more than $300,000 in interest, attorneys for two Baltimore Plaintiffs have sought a writ of execution to seize and auction 21 vehicles owned by the Housing Authority to fulfill a portion of the judgment.

Our Annapolis Maryland Injury Attorneys have years of experience successfully representing Plaintiffs in product liability actions, many of which involve a manufacturer or distributor's failure to warn of a known danger.

Although the Housing Authority has appealed the judgment to the Court of Special Appeals, the Baltimore Housing Authority elected not to post an appeal bond. Ordinarily a party who appeals a Circuit Court judgment may post an appeal bond to effectively set aside funds if the party loses the appeal. Since the Housing Authority did not post a bond, the Housing Authority is presently required to pay the judgment.

Earlier last year, the Baltimore City Housing commissioner stated that the agency was unable to pay the judgment because it would have depleted the Authority's resources to provide services to residents.

In addition to the Housing Authority's inability to pay, the parties have also been unable to agree which property belongs to the federal government versus property that belongs solely to the Housing Authority. Much of the property of the Housing Authority of Baltimore City belongs to the federal government and would ordinarily be out of reach for Plaintiffs. The 21 vehicles that were "tagged" for auction by the Baltimore City Sheriff are exclusively owned by the Housing Authority. On this basis Plaintiff's counsel seeks to see the vehicles auctioned off, with the proceeds used to fulfill a portion of the amount owed.

The vehicles amount to 10 percent of the Authority's vehicle fleet, and they are used for resident services. These vehicles were eligible for seizure because they were not purchased with federal money.

In addition to the amount owed by these two plaintiffs, the authority owes an additional $11 million other plaintiffs to satisfy other judgments involving lead paint and mold.
It is uncertain whether these vehicles will actually be auctioned off or if counsel for the Plaintiffs and the Housing Authority will be able to resolve their differences. Nevertheless, this is an example of a creative way to seek payment of an unsatisfied judgment.

Update: The Court of Special Appeals overturned the trial court's verdict on January 19. So for now, the Housing Authority will keep its trucks.

February 23, 2011

Carmaker's Compliance with Federal Safety Regulations does not Bar Liability

seatbelt.jpg Carmakers are not shielded from liability when they manufacture cars that comply with federal regulations, but are alleged to be defective under state tort law, the Supreme Court unanimously held on Feb. 23.

In Williamson v. Mazda Motor of America, the Supreme Court held that a California family can continue its lawsuit alleging that Mazda's installation of a lap belt in the middle-rear seat in the 1993 Mazda MPV, even though the seat belt technically complied with the federal standard at the time it was manufactured. Our Annapolis Maryland Injury Attorneys have substantial experience aiding injuring people who have been injured by defective products.

The Williamson family argued in California State Court that the defective seatbelt system, which involved just a lap belt in the second-row middle sea, caused the death of their daughter Thanh Williamson.

Mazda argued that its seatbelt system complied with the federal standard when the vehicle was manufactured in 1993. The Federal Standard at the time gave automakers the choice of a lap belt or a lap and shoulder harness seatbelt in the middle rear-suit. Mazda argued that the Federal standard essentially gave Mazda a choice.

The California Courts agreed with Mazda, holding the doctrine of preemption applied. Under a doctrine called pre-emption, when a state law conflicts with a federal law, the federal law usually wins out.

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December 30, 2010

Patients Get Exposed to Excessive Radiation from Stereotactic Radiosurgery

Three Evanston, Illinois patients recently received excessive amounts of radiation from a popular radiation therapy called stereotactic radiosurgery, also called SRS. These accidents have devastating effects on patients, according to a recent NYTimes article. As a result of excessive radiation, one patient is nearly comatose and requires treatment in a nursing home.

Our Annapolis Maryland injury attorneys have experience representing Plaintiffs who have been injured by excessive radiation either by the negligence of medical providers and/or defective medical devices.

SRS is a treatment designed to target tiny tumors affecting the brain or spinal cord, while minimizing damage to surrounding tissue.

The NYTimes article reported that SRS systems made by Varian and its German partner Brainlab have figured in scores of accidents. While experts claim that there is nothing inherently wrong with the devices in question, called linear accelerators, most problems are the result of user error and a lack of guidelines for mixing and matching multiple companies' products.

For example, in the Evanston incidence, a mismatch of a cone-shaped attachment to the linear accelerator caused excessive amounts of radiation to spill out of the accelerator.

hospitalxray.jpg

Linear accelerators are less expensive than a competing medical device called the Gamma Knife. Linear accelerators are also less regulated.

While SRS is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, the Gamma Knife is regulated by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, since it uses a radioactive isotope. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is required to publicize incidents regarding radiation.

Not only is the FDA not required to publicize adverse events, the FDA approved the linear accelerators with little review on the grounds that it was an extension of old equipment.

Experts from the American Society for Radiation Oncology are calling for a central database for the reporting of errors involving linear accelerators.

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December 29, 2010

Plaintiffs Prepare Mass Tort Action Against Makers of Darvon and Darvocet

pills.jpgPlaintiffs attorneys in several states are preparing to file lawsuits against Xanodyne Pharmaceuticals, a Kentucky-based drug company that marketed the painkillers Darvon and related brand Darvocet, both pain killers, according to an article that appeared in the Daily Record yesterday.

Our Annapolis Maryland attorneys have significant product liability trial experience representing Plaintiffs who have been injured by defective drugs and/or manufacturers' failures to warn consumers.

Some attorneys plan to also sue drug company Eli Lilly, which pioneered the drugs prior to selling them in 2002 to AAI Pharmaceuticals, which has since gone bankrupt. Xanodyne purchased the drugs in 2005.

According to the Daily Record Article, the drugs' active incredient propoxyphene causes a condition called QT prolongation, a form of an irregular heartbeat. Plaintiffs' experts allege that QT prolongation is a "signature" injury caused only by propoxyphene and several other drugs. This condition can cause severe problems. Additionally, the drugs have been linked to overdoses.

Britain, Canada and Japan withdrew the drug from the market prior to the FDA taking action.

In July 2009, the FDA declined to remove Darvon from the market, but required manufacturers to provide more information to help physicians and patients to decide whether propoxyphene is the appropriate pain treatment.

Under pressure, Xanodyne Pharmaceuticals agreed to withdraw propoxyphene from the U.S. market on November 19, 2010, after the FDA received new clinical data showing the drug put patients at risk of potentially serious or even fatal heart rhythm abnormalities.

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December 9, 2010

Jury Awards $66 Million in Defective Exercise Equipment Product Liability Action

A Buffalo, New York jury awarded $66 Million to a former massage therapist who became a quadriplegic after a 2004 workplace accident in which a 600-pound leg extension exercise machine fell on her. The jury ruled against Cybex International Inc., a well-known maker of exercise equipment, in a product liability action that also apportioned liability on Plaintiff's employer.

Our Annapolis, Maryland product liability attorneys represent Plaintiffs in product liability actions in which Plaintiffs have been injured by manufacturing defects or a manufacturer's failure to warn of risks.

The New York jury verdict awarded $8 million for past pain and suffering, $151,690 in past lost earnings, $1.68 million for past medical expenses, $25 million for future pain and suffering, $1.79 million for future lost earnings, $28.56 for future medical expenses and $792,435 for care of potential children to 30-year-old Natalie Barnhard.

The accident occurred while Plaintiff was doing a shoulder stretch. Plaintiff had her hand on top of the leg extension machine, and it fell onto her when she stretched back with her shoulder and arm, according to attorney. The machine broke two cervical vertebrae and compressed the bones onto her spinal cord.

The jury found Cybex 75 percent liable for the Plaintiff's injuries, Plaintiff's employer 20 percent liable, and the Plaintiff 5 percent responsible for the accident.

Maryland law also supports recovery for Plaintiff's that have been injured by a Manufacturer's negligence in producing defective products and/or failing to warn of a risk that is reasonably discoverable by the manufacturer. Two points, however are noteworthy:

  1. Maryland, as of 2010, presently caps recovery for non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering, at $740,000. This amount modestly increases every October.
  2. Maryland law precludes recovery under the doctrine of Contributory Negligence in a negligence action where a Plaintiff contributes to his/her injury, notwithstanding a Defendant manufacturer's negligence.

Nevertheless, a Plaintiff's contributory negligence does not bar a Plaintiff's recovery under a theory of Strict Product Liability. The key difference between Strict Product Liability and Negligence is that an action based in Negligence focuses on the conduct of the manufacturer. In Strict Liability, the law focuses on the product itself.

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