Product Liability: Florida Resident Sues for Birth Defects Caused by Zofran

Florida resident Robin Zgurski began taking Zofran in 2006 after her doctor prescribed it for the morning sickness that accompanied her pregnancy. When Zgurski’s son was born with a bilateral cleft lip and palate she did not connect the birth defects to her using Zofran. Then in 2012, Glaxo Klein Smith (GSK) the makers of Zofran, plead guilty to criminal charges filed by the U.S. Department of Justice.

The FDA had approved Zofran as a drug for patients experiencing nausea from radiation treatments, but they never approved it for use by pregnant women. Morning sickness is a common side effect of a normal and healthy pregnancy. GSK intentionally promoted Zofran “off-label” as a safe treatment for this condition without seeking FDA approval. As a result, many families like the Zgurskis have been affected by this illegal and irresponsible move by GSK.

Research shows that Zofran does in fact cause birth defects. While GSK has ceased any new off-label marketing their campaign has been so successful that that despite the available facts about the dangers of Zofran doctors are still prescribing it to pregnant women regularly.

Companies like GSK must do extensive research and testing prior to releasing any drug for use by the public. The FDA then needs to approve the drug for the specific use indicated to ensure it is safe as prescribed. As we see in the GSK Zofran scandal, many drug companies either conceal knowledge of known side effects from the FDA or circumvent the approval process by encouraging doctors to prescribe their drugs for non-FDA approved uses or “off-label” uses.

The recent slate of Zofran lawsuits fall under the area of the law known as “defective products.” GSK not only failed to warn the public of the dangers of taking Zofran while pregnant, but they illegally promoted and marketed the drug for this use.

Zofran (the generic form is called “ondansetron”) manipulates the brain’s serotonin levels to alleviate nausea. Pregnant women using Zofran were 50% more at risk for cardiac malformations in their unborn babies and a 30% overall risk of congenital problems.

If you were prescribed Zofran while pregnant then you must speak to an experienced Florida pharmaceutical product liability attorney as soon as possible. There is a window of only four years from the date you were harmed by a drug in order to file a lawsuit against the company manufacturing the prescription. We will help you review your legal options and take action against the company that caused harm to you and your family. Call today.

UCF Football Uses Statutory Caps to Play Defense in Student Death Lawsuit

In 2008, Erick Plancher, a student and football player at the University of Central Florida (UCF) collapsed and died on the field during an offseason condition practice held by the coaching staff.  As a state run university, UCF enjoys sovereign immunity protections that limit the amount of money they can be sued for. The UCF Athletics Association, Inc. (UCFAA) that administers support to UCF athletics programs is set up as a private entity. The Planchers sued the UCFAA for negligence and won a jury award of $10 million.

The appeals court reversed the jury award. They ruled that UCFAA was a “direct support organization,” run by UCF president and state employee John Hitt. This effectively granted UCFAA state agency status and sovereign immunity protections that limited damages to the statutory cap of $200,000. The Supreme Court of Florida affirmed the appeals court decision in 2015, finding that UCFAA is run on a day-to-day basis under direct governmental control and financing. It should be noted that the Court upheld the $10 million jury award, but ruled that UCFAA’s liability for that amount should be limited to the statutory cap of $200,000.

Sovereign immunity protects city, county and state governmental entities from being sued unless authorized by Florida statute or waived by the entity itself. There are strict time limits for bringing such a lawsuit under Florida’s Sovereign Immunity Statute § 768.28:

  • 3 Years – Pre-suit notice must be provided to the entity or agency being sued and the Department of Financial Services within three years of the claim accruing.
  • 4 Years – The lawsuit must be filed within four years of the claim accruing.

­Statutory caps under § 768.28 are meant to protect public treasuries from being drained by excessive litigation, preserve the ability of public entities to function, and allow government employees to do their jobs without fear of being sued.

These caps limit plaintiffs to damages of $200,000 per claimant and an additional $100,000 if they have dependents (lawyer’s fees are capped at 25% of the damage award). The government entity has six months to evaluate the claim once it is received, at which time they may deny it or offer a settlement prior to the plaintiff filing a lawsuit.

Despite recovery caps on sovereign entities, greater awards can be sought through a claims bill in the Florida Legislature. This complicated process requires lobbying for politicians to sponsor a bill, getting majority votes in the state House and Senate, and then the approval and signature of the Governor. If you are considering a lawsuit against a governmental entity then you must speak to an experienced Florida personal injury attorney ­today. Contact our firm today to schedule your free consultation.

Lawsuits Reveal Volkswagen Clean Diesel Playing Dirty with Consumers

Volkswagen “clean diesel” had been a staple in the green culture for years. Now it seems the car wasn’t so green. Federal reports estimate that 11 million VW “clean diesel” vehicles had actually been polluting the air at rates 40 times the federal emissions standard.

Not only had Volkswagen been “playing dirty” while pretending to set the clean standard, they installed technology to hide the problem and beat emission tests. The market has reacted harshly, criticizing Volkswagen and calling for tougher measures on the German automaker. Meanwhile, consumers who purchased Volkswagen diesel vehicles, incurring the additional cost and burden of using diesel fuel as an environmentally responsible choice, have been duped into driving a vehicle that caused more damage than cheaper alternatives.

There are currently a few class-action lawsuits currently pending against Volkswagen seeking compensation for the depreciated value of the owner’s vehicles. Most of the lawsuits already filed have focused on product liability claims. VW’s fraudulent claims to consumers about the fuel efficiency and environmentally sound design of their cars is likely to spur many more lawsuits.

Volkswagen may also be sued by government environmental agencies. Harris County, Texas filed a lawsuit against VW in September 2015 seeking $100 million in damages for polluting Houston and other parts of the county with toxic chemicals and then fraudulently deceiving local consumers and authorities by concealing the problem.

Owners of Volkswagen clean diesel vehicles may also find it difficult to now register their vehicles and pass emissions tests, especially in states with tougher environmental standards like California. While VW plans to recall 500,000 “TDI Clean Diesel” brand vehicles, it must first address the massive pollution inflicted on the environment by their products. Before any recall happens, Volkswagen will work with the EPA to set a plan in motion.

If you have purchased or leased a Volkswagen manufactured diesel powered vehicle then you may be entitled to damages. You should speak with a qualified commercial and products liability attorney immediately to protect your rights. At Lytal, Reiter, Smith, Ivey & Fronrath, we have achieved some of the most significant products liability verdicts nationwide. Our lawyers will fight to makes sure that Volkswagen lives up to their responsibility to you. Contact us today for a free consultation.

Silent Killers in Your Garage: Keyless Ignition Deaths Surge in Florida

Keyless ignition devices allow drivers to start and shut off their cars with the click of a button on their keychain. A recent study reveals this convenient feature can be a killer, and the Florida seems to be the place it strikes most.

According to the Palm Beach Post, there have been 21 deaths nationwide since 2009 associated with keyless ignition. One third of those deaths have occurred in Florida. Keyless ignition deaths typically happen because drivers leave their cars in a garage attached to the home, but do not realize that the keyless ignition device failed to turn the car off. Deadly carbon monoxide, a colorless and odorless gas, then seeps into the home.

While the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) plans to issue keyless ignition rules for automakers the fact remains that millions of these cars are already out there. In the meantime, the families of victims killed by keyless ignition devices are fighting back against automakers, filing wrongful death and products liability lawsuits in Florida and nationwide. These lawsuits allege that automakers knew or should have known about the danger presented by keyless ignition, and provided some kind of safeguard such as an auto shut-off feature.

Companies must ensure the products they put on the market, such as keyless ignition, are safe for consumers. Succeeding on product liability claims such as these involve many defendants, including the product’s manufacturer, distributors, retailers and even the service centers responsible for maintenance and repair of the product. Given the high number of fatalities related to keyless ignition, there is a likelihood these devices are defectively designed and the automakers should know it.

Here at Lytal, Reiter, Smith, Ivey & Fronrath, our defective products lawyers have successfully litigated against hundreds of nationally known manufacturers. Our experience and resources allow us to go up against corporate giants like the automakers and hold them responsible for their negligent actions.

We stand ready to represent individuals and families in Florida and nationwide who seek compensation for keyless ignition and other product liability claims. Our firm has achieved some of the most significant products liability verdicts nationwide, and works tirelessly to hold corporations responsible for their actions. Contact us today for a free consultation.

Does Baby Powder Cause Ovarian Cancer? Probably, Says Jury

While consumers have been speculating for a decade that baby powders containing talc cause cancer, a recent tort case once again reinforced the rumor with a $55 million award.

The St. Louis jury recently awarded a 62-year-old woman $55 million in damages after she claimed her habitual use of baby powder was a significant factor in her ovarian cancer. The recent award is the second large settlement by Johnson & Johnson over the same dispute. Earlier this year a Missouri jury awarded an Alabama woman $72 million following her death from ovarian cancer. According to media coverage following the trial and award, the jury went against 30 years of research showing that talcum powder is safe to use. There are over 1200 similar cases against Johnson & Johnson still pending.

When a consumer product endangers the health or safety of the public, the manufacturer of the product is responsible for warning the user of possible danger. In the case of talcum powder-related cancer, despite the cases brought against the manufacturer, no talcum powder product currently warns the user not to apply the powder to the genital area; expert witnesses in these recent cases believe such a warning would significantly reduce cancer risk in women.

When a product causes injury or harm, the injured consumer can sue the manufacturer of the product if:

  • The product did not carry a warning of danger;
  • The consumer can prove harm or illness;
  • The consumer can prove that the product directly caused or contributed to the harm or illness;

In the baby powder cases, the juries were sufficiently convinced that the talcum ingredient directly caused cancer. While one plaintiff did not live to receive her ward, the second plaintiff is currently in remission following a hysterectomy. It is likely that, given the large number of similar actions still outstanding, that this will not be the last we hear about talcum powder and ovarian cancer.

At Lytal, Reiter, Smith, Ivey & Fronrath we want to keep you and your family safe and healthy. If you have been injured or become ill as a result of a product you’ve purchased, call us at 561-665-1990 or contact us online. We look forward to meeting with you at our West Palm Beach office to discuss your case.

Prevent Medical Errors During your Child’s Treatment

There may be nothing more difficult for a parent than watching their child suffer. When a child is ill or injured and requires medical care, a parent’s vigilance during and after treatment can be instrumental in the outcome. Here are seven guidelines for parents to help prevent oversights, errors, and carelessness in your child’s medical care.

  1. Document — always bring either a voice recorder or a notebook to medical appointments. Write down or record all instructions, recommendations and conjectures so you can refer back to them at a later time or compare with a second opinion.
  2. Take control — Always remember that you, the parent, are in control of your child’s treatment. Never allow a doctor to intimidate you into accepting a treatment or surgery you do not want for your child.
  3. Ask questions — Never leave an appointment until all of your questions have been answered. Come with a list of questions you prepared at home and insist on finishing your list.
  4. Get a second opinion — Even if you agree with most of your doctor’s opinions it is a good idea to seek out a second look. A good doctor is likely to agree to another opinion and even provide you with a respected colleague to consult with.
  5. Know everyone involved — if your child is receiving treatment or surgery, make direct contact with all the doctors, nurses, specialists or consultants involved. Make sure everyone on the case knows who else is involved as well.
  6. Educate yourself — learn about your child’s illness, injury or condition. Research the most updated treatment protocols and what outcome can be expected. The more you know, the more you know what to ask.
  7. Stay calm — you will not be able to advocate for you child if you’ve been evicted from the treatment room. Keep calm and quiet, saving your questions and concerns for the right moment.

Hospitals and medical centers are busy places, and information can get lost or jumbled. Human error can affect the treatment or quality of patient care, even when practitioners have the best of intentions. A parent can be instrumental in making sure their child receives the best care possible.

If you suspect your child has been injured or received inappropriate treatment, consult a medical malpractice attorney. Malpractice lawsuits ensure that doctors and nurses act with greater and attention. Call Lytal, Reiter, Smith, Ivey & Fronrath at 561-665-1990 or contact us online to discuss how we can help you with your case so you get compensation for your injury.

Tire Tread Separation – Is Your Vehicle at Risk?

If you drive a car, light truck, SUV or mini-van, there is a good possibility your tires are steel belted radial tires.  The most common defect in this type of tire is tread separation, which occurs when the tread becomes separated from the casing. This situation elevates the risk of a tire blowout, potentially causing the vehicle to crash.

Bridgestone/Firestone North America Tire (Bridgestone) recently announced a recall of 2900 replacement passenger car tires due to a manufacturing error they believe could result in separation of tire treads.

Steel belted radial tires are made of specific rubber compounds reinforced by plies of fabric cords and metal wires. The cords and wires resist stretching of the rubber and maintain the shape of the tire. These materials are strongly bonded together using specialized adhesives, however, when the strength of the bond is weakened, the treads can separate.

The most common cause of tread separation is a manufacturing defect, although the incidence of such cases is statistically quite low. Typically, the root of the issue is in the curing process, causing inadequate bonding. When a company, such as Bridgestone, becomes aware of a possible defect, they will generally issue a recall as consumer safety is customarily a top priority. Other causes of tire tread separation include over-inflation of the tire, hitting a pothole, incorrect repair of a flat tire, and exceeding the life of the tire (excessive wear and tear).

Signs that your tire(s) may have tread separation:

  • Slight vibration while driving
  • Vehicle feels like it is “off-balance” while driving
  • Bumps or blisters forming on the treads

How to check your tires:

  • Inspect your tires by looking and feeling for signs of deformities or irregularities
  • Look for other signs of failure such as sidewall cracks, treads that are worn unevenly or thinly
  • If you are unsure, you should have a licensed mechanic inspect your tires

Blisters or bumps on a tire will continue to grow until the tire fails, which can be a potentially dangerous situation. If you suspect tire tread separation, the only solution is to replace the tire.

The affected Bridgestone tires are Firestone FR710 tires size 205/65R16, and Champion Fuel Fighter tires size 205/65R15 and 205/70R15, manufactured between March 27 and April 9, 2016. They are being recalled due to suspicion of inconsistent rubber coverage over the steel plies. Bridgestone will be notifying owners of the voluntary recall and dealers will replace the tires free of charge. For further information, owners can contact Bridgestone customer service at 1-800-847-3272.

If you, a loved one, friend, neighbor, colleague or client has been injured or killed as a result of a tire manufacturing error, please contact our firm at 561-655-1990 or chat with us at www.ForYourRights.com. We are available to answer your questions 24 hours a day / 7 days a week.

If you are in need of a Personal Injury Attorney in West Palm Beach, call now!

 

About Lytal, Reiter, Smith, Ivey & Fronrath

Conveniently located in West Palm Beach for 27 years, Lytal, Reiter, Smith, Ivey & Fronrath, LLP concentrates in Personal Injury, Wrongful death, Medical Malpractice, Product Liability and Auto accidents. At Lytal, Reiter, Smith, Ivey & Fronrath, we specialize in helping victims and their families get fair compensation for injuries caused by the negligence or recklessness of others. Our main areas of practice include personal injury, wrongful death, auto accidents, product liability, medical malpractice, and premise liability. We provide each client with the highest quality representation from a top Florida accident and injury lawyer.

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Trouble at the Dog Park? Biting Dogs Get Legal Time Out

In the state of Florida, dog owners are wholly and fully responsible for the behavior of their dogs, with very few exceptions. This responsibility includes instances when a person is on the property of the dog owner, especially if that person is in the capacity of a public service, such as a postal worker, paramedic or police officer.

What if, however, the dog bites someone in a public place, such as the dog park? Dog parks have become a popular destination for dog owners who are eager to take advantage of the chance to let a pet run free and play with other dogs. However, not all dogs know how to play nicely with other dogs, and sometimes become aggressive with other dog owners.

If a dog acts aggressively as a habit, a dog owner is required to post a warning sign that clearly indicates the dog may bite, and contains the words, “bad dog” on the sign. In a public space, no sign exists. If a dog bites a person — regardless of its past behavior — the owner of the dog is responsible.

The dog park is unfortunately a fairly uncontrolled environment. In order to reduce the incidence of Dog Park biting, dog owners should keep these things in mind:

  • Many types of dogs may be unleashed at once, making it difficult to determine which dog belongs to which owner;
  • A dog may act aggressively and without provocation when not in close proximity of its owner, making it difficult or impossible for the owner to warn the potential bite victim away from the dog;
  • A dog may bite the hand of a person who reaches for a ball or toy, without intending to harm the victim;

If a dog bites a person in a public place, the owner of the dog is liable for damages. The bite victim has a right to seek compensation for medical bills, including stitches, rabies shots, cosmetic surgery or any other treatment required for recovery from the bite.

In the dog park scenario, some dog owners attempt to justify their dog’s aggressive behavior claiming that another dog provoked their dog. That may be the case, but the law does not hold any dog responsible for its own behavior.

When a dog bites, the dog owner is legally responsible for your injury. A dog bite lawyer at Lytal, Reiter, Smith, Ivey & Fronrath can help you organize your personal injury case so you get the maximum compensation allowed by law. Call our West Palm Beach office at 561-665-1990 or contact us online today.

Seat Belt Injuries — Still the Better Alternative

Seat belts are designed for one purpose — to save lives. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that seat belts save 13,000 lives every year. Since the 1970’s, seat belt use has skyrocketed, and the recent addition of airbags as standard equipment has further increased road and highway safety.

Seat belts do their job — that is to brace the driver or passenger during the impact of an accident or collision, preventing the person from being ejected, hitting the dashboard or windshield, or sustaining a serious whiplash injury. While performing this life-saving purpose, seat belts can apply a great deal of pressure to the shoulders, chest and abdomen of the wearer, and this can cause injury.

Common injuries from seat belt impact usually include these areas:

  • Cervical spine and neck — most commonly known as whiplash, these areas are vulnerable to soft tissue trauma even in minor, low-impact crashes;
  • Thorax — often caused by the shoulder belt, injuries to the upper back vary in severity depending on the intensity of the car’s impact and the velocity of the car;
  • Thoracic Spine — the mid-spinal area is compressed by the lap belt and often not supported by the car’s seat back.
  • Lumbar Spine — a vulnerable spot on most adults, the lower back and sacroiliac joints take much of the body’s trauma and are slow to recover;
  • Abdomen — the abdomen houses the body’s vital organs, many of which can suffer trauma from the car’s lap belt in a high impact crash;

Seat belt injuries range in severity from light bruising, minor lacerations and slight burns to severe bruising, soft tissue trauma and fractures. In a high velocity, high impact crash, a seat belt can cause fracture to the pelvis, clavicle or rib cage. While some seat belt injuries can be severe, in most accidents they are not. In all cases, the injuries that the seat belt wearer would sustain if not belted are clearly far more severe.

In the important moments following a car accident it may be hard to know what happened.  The human body reacts to trauma by releasing adrenaline, and this prevents the person from feeling pain. If you have been involved in an accident, you might be more injured than you think. Seek medical attention immediately and contact a friend or family member to get you home. Next contact a car accident attorney at Lytal, Reiter, Smith, Ivey & Fronrath. We will collect the details of your accident and put together a case so you get the compensation you deserve. Call our West Palm Beach office at 561-665-1990 or contact us online today.