Florida Smokers

On March 26, 2012 the U.S. Supreme Court turned down the tobacco industry’s appeals without comment that sought to challenge the manner in which Florida courts are handling thousands of personal injury lawsuits.  The companies that appealed include R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co, Philip Morris USA and Liggett Group LLC.  The tobacco industry claims that the Florida courts are not requiring the plaintiffs to prove key arguments of their case.  The industry claims they are being robbed of their constitutional protections.  These lawsuits are brought by smokers and their families.

These individual cases started to pour in after 2006 when the Florida Supreme Court ruled that smokers couldn’t continue to proceed with one class-action lawsuit.  These cases include findings that the industry sold defective products and concealed the real dangers of smoking.

However, lawyers have provided caution to clients and others stating that large monetary amounts are not awarded by merely walking into the court room.  They still must prove essential elements of each of their cases.  While it is hard enough to take on the tobacco industry, the industry has been accused of changing its arguments throughout the cases.  This can create an added level of complexity for the plaintiff’s lawyers, as they constantly have to change their defense against these arguments.

So far, 50 cases have been tried to verdict and the judgments against the industry have totaled more than $375 million.

Jury Awards Eight Million in Amputation Case

A plaintiff in Indianapolis recently won an $8 million verdict from a jury.  While working on the cardboard production line of a factory, the plaintiff got his hand caught in a compression roller during the initial start-up phase for new equipment.  This caused four of his fingers on his left hand to be crushed, resulting in amputation and a dozen surgeries.  His left arm now has a disability rating of 90%.

The plaintiff brought action against AJ Engineering, the firm that designed the new equipment, contending it had been designed defectively.  The jury found AJ Engineering 70% responsible, resulting in a net verdict of $5.6 million.

The Truth about Adderall

Adderall is one of the main drugs proscribed for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and is distributed by Shire Pharmaceuticals.  This drug contains both amphetamine and dextroamphetamine and has been linked to heart attacks and strokes, both fatal and non-fatal.  The drug is also linked to cardiac episodes and hallucinations in children ages 7 to 14.  Several lawsuits are currently outstanding against Shire Pharmaceuticals, yet no verdicts have been reported.

In 2006, members of the FDA advisory committee commented that ADHD drugs are being proscribed to too many children, especially considering the fact that the diagnosis is so controversial.  This diagnosis is not recognized in many other countries, and some feel it is just an excuse for the parents.  Regardless, many deaths have been linked to Adderall and, as a result, many parents are now taking action.

Model Sues over Airplane Accident

Lauren Scruggs, a model, is suing Aggressive Insurance Services, the insurer of the small plane that severely injured her late last year.  She lost an eye and her left hand in the gruesome accident.  She was offered a $200,000 settlement offer, but rejected it.  The main point of disagreement is over whether or not she was a passenger at the time of the accident.  She argues that she had “completed her exit from the aircraft prior to the time of the incident and was physically located on the tarmac” when the accident occurred.

Veteran Sues US Government for Malpractice

A retired US airman is suing the US government for medical malpractice.  His wife and him claim that military surgeons messed up a routine gallbladder operation that eventually led to the amputation of his legs.  He claims that at the beginning of the surgery the doctors lacerated his aorta cutting off blood flow to his legs for hours.

They claim the government failed to supervise “the quality of medical, surgical, nursing and health care services” and follow rules for patient safety because a resident surgeon performed the surgery without the necessary supervision.

They are suing for $34.3 million which includes monetary compensation for pain and suffering, physical impairment, loss of earning, mental anguish and disfigurement.  It also seeks monetary compensation for his wife for the loss of relationship, household services and enjoyment of life or loss of capacity to enjoy life.  This is a great challenge to the Feres Doctrine, which does not permit members of the military to sue the government for negligence.

One Couple, One Case of Mesothelioma, Seventy-three Companies

An elderly couple is suing 73 companies over asbestos exposure.  They claim that all of the companies were aware and, thus, should have informed them of the side-effects of asbestos.  The husband was an insulator from 1956 until 1993.  During this time, he was exposed to asbestos-contained products.  The prosecutors claim that the companies are laible for negligence, misrepresentation, break of implied or expressed warranty, and post-safe duty to warn consumers of the effects of asbestos contained in their products.  Basically, the companies should have informed customers about the asbestos either in the packages or through communication at the point of sale.

However, because they did not, Mauney was exposed for nearly four decades.  It is now up to the courts to decide if the defendants were negligent.  However, it does not look favorable for the defendants, especially considering last fall a Florida jury awarded an asbestos victim $20 million.

Retired School Principal Awarded for Assault Suit

A 90-year-old West Baltimore woman was awarded a settlement of $95,000 for alleged assault, false imprisonment and other misconduct on the part of Baltimore City Police.  On July 26, 2009 a cop and her had a “scuffle” in her basement where after she was handcuffed and sustained a separated shoulder among other injuries.  She claims her civil rights were violated, as the police entered her home against her consent and without much probable cause.

Major Dallas Law Firm Sued for Malpractice

The plaintiffs, James Rogers, William Burmeister, and Conservative Care Inc and Care Affiliates Inc, claim that the lawyer Zanetti breached his fiduciary duty and is guilty of professional negligence/legal malpractice.  The plaintiffs state that they hired him to draft an agreement for their investment in Accent Home Health, of which they became 80% owners.  However, Accent’s founders subsequently sued the plaintiffs alleging the investment agreement that Zanetti wrote was “unconscionable, unenforceable, illusory and void.”  Zanetti then referred them to a litigator within the firm, rather than from another.  As a result, the plaintiffs argue that the litigator found himself defending his partner’s negligent drafting and in a conflict of interest situation.

Furthermore, the plaintiffs claim that the litigator had them create documents that he then used to try and “hoodwink” the opposing counsel and the Court with, claiming the documents had been made many months before.  The jury also found the investment agreement to be “unconscionable, unenforceable, illusory and void,” and, thus, the plaintiffs claim they have been “financially ruined” as a result of the defendant’s legal malpractice.  The settlement against the plaintiffs is now $5 million plus interest.  They seek that amount and fee forfeiture from Zanetti.

Widow and Coast Guard Civilly Sue Lobsterman

In June 2010, Phil Torrey, a lobsterman, crashed into another lobster boat and killed a man, aged 71.  Torrey has admitted to eating his lunch and not paying attention to where his boat was headed when the incident occurred.  Torrey’s boat cut the other into two and it quickly sank.  The widow and the Coast Guard are now suing Torrey for damages.  The Coast Guard is suing for $30,000, the maximum allowed, for Torrey’s negligence.

However, Torrey claims that the other boat was supposed to give way to his.  This is really the only defense he has.  The widow is suing for the funeral and burial expenses, and emotion distress incurred from losing her companion.  Torrey changed her life forever.