04/22/13 at 8:47amWhat's Your Lawyer Worth?

Does Your Lawyer Have Financial Stamina?

What’s your lawyer’s net worth?  What does that have to do with anything?  Well, take the issue of costs, for example. It takes a lot of money to make a case most of the time.  The general public has a lot of misconceptions about lawyers.  One mistake is thinking one lawyer is as able to handle your case as well as the next.  Far from it.

If a giant corporation damaged you, it will spend a lot of money on lawyers and expert witnesses to get out of  paying you, if possible.  Defendants usually have insurance and the insurance company has a lot of money to fight against you, billions and billions.  Just one company, State Farm, ended 2012 with a net worth of Sixty Five Billion Four Hundred Million dollars.  That’s $65,400,000,000,00.  It didn’t get rich paying fair amounts in claims.  

Your lawyer has to take it away from them.  Your lawyer must have the financial staying power to work up the case, not cave in to the crushing expenses the insurance company will make him or her lay out.

You probably don’t have hundreds of thousands of dollars laying around to take your case to court.  Does your lawyer?  Somebody has to front the money, almost always running well into six figures in a significant case.  It costs a lot to hire experts to evaluate your case and, if justified, to testify about their findings.  Somebody has to pay the court reporting fees, travel expenses, investigators, research costs, and so on and so on.   You need to ask about this before you sign a fee agreement with a lawyer.  Ask hard questions.

It used to be a little easier to figure this out.  Until 1972, the premier legal directory, Martindale-Hubbell, published ratings of lawyers’ net worth.   Here’s how it rated their estimated net worth: 

1  over $100,000

2  over 50,000 under $100,000

3  over 30,000 under 50,000

4  over $20,000 under $30,000

5  over 10,000 under 20,000

6  over 5,000 under 10,000

7  less than $5,000.

With inflation, a lawyer rated “1” in 1972 would have a 2012 net worth of $549,450.55.  It’s too bad you can’t go to the library and look up lawyers’ net worth anymore.  But it is still important for you to gauge your lawyer’s financial ability – and commitment –to spend what it takes to fight for you.  Ask about that before you sign a fee agreement.

03/13/13 at 1:51pmWhen should I hire a lawyer after being seriously injured or a family member has been killed?

Call an attorney immediately if you or a loved one has been injured.  Gone are the days when insurance companies out of the goodness of their corporate hearts paid claims made by innocent people without a fight.  What this more than likely means for you is a long, drawn-out battle even if you did nothing wrong.  The insurance company most likely will not pay you except for a limited amount to cover some of your medical bills, until a lawsuit is filed.  Even after you file a lawsuit, the insurance company’s lawyers will go to great lengths to prove the guilty party did nothing wrong or if s/he did cause the accident, you really are not hurt as much as you and your doctors say you are.

Therefore it is very important to preserve all of the evidence.  Even if you did nothing wrong, you will have to prove you were not at fault.  No matter how you were injured, there is a lot of evidence to be preserved.  For example, if you were injured when a semi-truck struck your vehicle, it is important to make sure the trucking company does not destroy the driver’s logs and the truck’s black box information, among many other documents.  The driver’s log along with other electronic data will show whether or not the truck driver was in compliance with the Department of Transportation’s hours of service requirements, for example.  In other words, was the truck driver legally on the highway when the wreck occurred?    If a careless physician has injured you or a loved one, all of your medical records will need to be preserved.

If a defective product like a defective tire, seatbelt or airbag or other product injured you, you will almost always need to preserve the product to prove it is defective.  This is true, even if you were injured in a car accident.  An accident reconstructionist will need to examine your car and the vehicle that injured you to determine who was at fault.  If your car has been “totaled” by your insurance company, do not let your insurance company sell it for salvage until you have talked a lawyer.  You will need to find an attorney who has experience representing people injured in auto and trucking collisions.  No matter how you were injured, your attorney should request all of the evidence be preserved for later testing if necessary and reviewed.

The bottom line is that if you have been seriously injured or a loved one was killed, it is important to contact an attorney immediately.  Do not wait until a few months before the statute of limitations (the time period for which a lawsuit must be filed) expires.  If you wait, important evidence will most likely be gone and memories will have faded, making your case difficult to prove.

02/13/13 at 11:13amUninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage

Protect yourself and your family

            Even the safest driver can be injured by careless motorist or truck driver.  If an uninsured or underinsured reckless driver injures you or a family member, your only recourse may be your own auto insurance coverage.  Many states require all motorists to carry uninsured/underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage.  However, Wyoming only mandates that its car owners carry $25,000 per person for bodily injury and $50,000 per accident.  Not only are many drivers underinsured, thousands more are driving cars without insurance.  If you are injured by one of these drivers your uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage may be the only insurance coverage available.  

So, what can you do to protect yourself and your family from an uninsured/underinsured motorist?  The answer is simple.  Buy the most uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage you can afford.  At the very least, insist that your insurance company sell you UIM coverage of $250,000 per person and $500,000 per occurrence.  Not only is UIM coverage cheaper than liability auto insurance, it may be the only insurance that will protect you and your family if an uninsured driver hits you.  (Sometimes there is a product defect that may lead to additional coverage from a manufacturer, or bad repairs that may lead to additional coverage from a tire shop or service station or the like.)

            Before making a claim for UIM coverage, read your insurance policy carefully to so you will know what your insurance company requires.  Many insurance companies require their insureds to get the company’s approval before settling their claim against the careless, underinsured motorist.  In addition, your insurance company will require you to prove your damage before paying your UIM claim.  Before making an UIM claim, it could be a good idea to talk with a lawyer.

08/02/10 at 3:12pmAvandia: New Problems for GlaxoSmithKline

Like the ones it has with Paxil

According to a New York Times article, GlaxoSmithKline knew of the potential risks of the diabetes medication Avandia.  GlaxoSmithKline is also the maker of the SSRI Paxil.

Allegedly, GSK hid results of studies that showed Avandia was a dangerous medication.  According to an email obtained by the NY times, an executive wrote “Per Sr. Mgmt request, these data should not see the light of day to anyone outside of GSK.” 

The public first became aware of the potential heart risks of Avandia in 2007 after a lawsuit against the drug maker.  In that suit, it was discovered that GSK knew of the risks as of 2005.  However, new documents purportedly show that GSK knew of the potential risks as early as 1999.

After a lawsuit involving Paxil settled in 2004, GSK agreed to post the findings of all of their studies on the internet.  However, this does not solve the problem for many who say that GSK’s method for releasing the study information is still too mysterious.  It also does not resolve the issues for those who have suffered heart problems after taking Avandia.

Recently, the Food and Drug Administration determined there was a problem with Avandia.  An FDA panel voted in the majority that Avandia should be removed from the market or have its sales severely restricted.

Patients who have suffered heart attacks or heart failure while taking Rosiglitazone (Avandia) may have a product liability case against GlaxoSmithKine.  If you have been injured by this medication, you should contact a products liability attorney immediately.  The Fitzgerald Law Firm was part of one of the two successful courtroom trials against GlaxoSmithKline for failure to warn users about the potential dangers of Paxil, another GSK drug.  Paxil was linked to suicide in teens and adults, and also to birth defects in newborns when their mothers had taken Paxil.

07/22/10 at 9:37amPaxil

GlaxoSmithKline announced it expects legal charges of approximately $2.4 billion for the second quarter of 2010.  The reports are that the $2.4 billion legal bill includes charges related to product liability lawsuits over Paxil, mothers and babies. “The charge we have announced today reflects the company’s ongoing efforts to resolve certain longstanding legal cases,” according to its main corporate lawyer in a statement quoted in the New York Times. “This represents a substantial proportion of GSK’s outstanding litigation.”

GlaxoSmithKline settled more than a hundred Paxil birth defect lawsuits in June 2010.  The Fitzgerald Law Firm has cases alleging GSK deliberately chose against adequately warning physicians and expectant mothers about the risk of birth defects when those pregnant mothers took Paxil.  Those birth defects include persistent pulmonary hypertension in newborn babies (PPHN) and heart defects, including holes in the heart and malformations.

Many law firms claim to have success in Paxil cases but only two lawsuits have ever resulted in a verdict against GSK for a birth injury, or death from suicide. One of those two successful cases against GSK over its Paxil product resulted in a verdict in which Jim Fitzgerald was privileged to serve as trial co-counsel for the family. If you or a loved one has faced issues with Paxil use during pregnancy and resulting birth defects in the baby and you are considering legal action, The Fitzgerald Law Firm will review your case free of charge.

 

06/21/10 at 10:10amDriving Accidents

Wyoming residents on average drive the most of any state in the U.S.  Wyoming’s large size makes for long drives.  All of this driving has the potential to lead to accidents.  While accurate numbers are not kept on non-fatal traffic accidents, there were 34,017 fatal traffic accidents in 2008 in the United States. http://www.nhtsa.gov/ Because of the large amounts driven by Wyoming drivers, those drivers are more at risk of accidents.  There are certainly accidents on the road but many times car and tire manufacturers could have prevented them or at least avoided serious injuries and deaths.

Accidents can happen for many reasons, including tire failure like the problems that plagued Firestone tires in the past and accelerator problems like those that are troubling Toyota.  There are also many other types of problems that can contribute to a traffic accident.

Truck accidents can occur for a variety of reasons.  Semi-trucks are a common sight in Wyoming.  Interstate 80 is one of the most heavily used corridors to move freight from coast to coast.  As a result of the large numbers of trucks on I-80, there are numerous accidents involving commercial vehicles or semi trucks.

If you or a loved one have been seriously injured in this type of accident, and you are considering legal action, The Fitzgerald Law Firm will review your case free of charge.

03/19/10 at 7:45amHeart Damage Caused by Diabetes Drug

Relying upon confidential government reports, The New York Times warned its readers on February 20, 2010, that each month hundred of people who are taking Avandia, a drug prescribed for the treatment of diabetes, are having heart attacks and others are experiencing heart failure.  The recommendation in these confidential government reports is that Avandia be withdrawn from the market.

According to the report, withdrawing Avadia from the market and replacing this defective and dangerous drug with a similar medication (Actos) would prevent 500 heart attacks and 300 cases of heart failure each month.   Avadia, also known as Rosiglitazone, is used to treat Type 2 diabetes.  In the third quarter of 2009, this drug was linked to 304 deaths.

GlaxoSmithKline manufactures Avandia.  The confidential FDA reports are part of an intense debate within the agency about whether this drug should be taken off the market.  This battle has been raging for a number of years but was recently brought to the forefront because of a new clinical trial and a Senate investigation that GlaxoSmithKline should have warned patients earlier about the potential risks of taking this pill.

Patients who have suffered heart attacks or heart failure while taking Rosiglitazone (Avandia) may have a product liability case against GlaxoSmithKine.  If you have been injured by this medication, you should contact a products liability attorney immediately.  The Fitzgerald Law Firm was part one of two law firms that successfully sued GlaxoSmithKline for failure to warn users about the potential dangers of Paxil, an SSRI antidepressant drug.

03/05/10 at 7:55amPain Pump

$4.5 Million Personal Injury Verdict

I-Flow Corporation manufactures and sells pain pumps that are used after surgery.  Recently, an Oregon jury found the company liable for negligence.  The jury awarded the plaintiff $4.5 million for the permanent damage he suffered to his shoulder joint. 

In 2004, the thirty-five (35) year old plaintiff underwent surgery after hurting his right shoulder while playing flag football.  After surgery, his surgeon inserted a pain pump catheter directly into the shoulder joint.  The pain pump is designed to deliver pain medication directly into the shoulder.

Afterward, the plaintiff reported to his doctor that he was experiencing ongoing pain and a “clicking” sound in his shoulder.  Physicians discovered that the patient’s cartilage in his shoulder joint was almost completely worn away.  This condition is called chondrolysis.  The pain pump damaged the plaintiff’s cartilage.  Now the patient has undergone more surgery but surgery cannot repair all of the damage.  He now faces a lifetime of repeat surgeries, constant pain and limited use of his right arm.

Although the FDA has not approved inserting these pain pump catheters directly into a joint, the product’s manufacturer instructed doctors to insert the catheter directly into the joint and then failed to warn medical doctors of the risks.

If you or a family member has had a pain pump inserted after surgery and have experienced cartilage damage, you should immediately contact an attorney.  The Fitzgerald Law Firm has more than 30 years of experience prosecuting product liability cases.  Their attorneys review potential cases for free.

03/05/10 at 7:50amDefective Tires Can Kill

Defective tires are dangerous. Tread separation and other tire defects can result from design error or manufacturing defects. When faulty tires suddenly lose their tread or explode (blow out), this event can cause the driver not only to lose control of the vehicle but also be unable to regain control, resulting in a deadly collision or accident.

Tire tread separation is particularly dangerous for owners of SUVs and vans because these vehicles have a higher center of gravity than passenger cars. This higher center of gravity can lead to deadly rollover accidents when a tire unexpectedly blows out. Blowouts can occur long before the tire tread is worn out. That can happen if the tire has minute cracks. They quickly lead to larger cracks that develop between the belts, causing premature tire fatigue and tread failure.


In late June 2009, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that Bridgestone recalled 127,000 Firestone tires sold in 2007 and 2008 -- nearly doubling an earlier recall of tires from the same line.


NHTSA reports that in recent years tens of millions of flawed tires have been recalled. Firestone's Wilderness AT tires were recalled because they did not have proper adhesion between the steel belts and the surrounding rubber. This defect was caused by Firestone’s failure to utilize gum edge strips, nylon overlays or caps, or other safeguards to reduce the hazard of tread belt separation. Cooper Tire, Goodyear, Uniroyal, Dunlop and Foreign Tire Sales, Inc., and an importer of Chinese tires under the brand names Westlake, Telluride, Compass and YKS have all issued recalls for some of their tire models.


Tire manufactures are legally responsible for automobile wrecks that are caused by faulty tires. For over thirty years The Fitzgerald Law Firm has successfully brought product liability cases against many tire manufactures on behalf of their seriously injured clients and these clients’ family members who were killed in automobile accidents.

02/24/10 at 8:09amToyota’s Corolla

Steering Problems Emerge

Toyota’s problems are mounting. On February 17, 2010, U.S. safety officials announced they are investigating complaints of dangerous steering problems in the 2009 and 2010 Toyota Corollas. This problem surfaced soon after this automobile manufacturer introduced a new power steering electrical system in its 2009 Corolla model.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has received 163 complaints. According to federal officials this defect causes the Corolla to veer from side to side. This product has caused accidents resulting in injuries to both drivers and passengers. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, approximately 363,000 2009 Toyota Corollas and 136,000 2010 Toyota Corollas are defective.

02/24/10 at 8:04amCrib Recall

After the Death of a Baby

After the death of a six month old baby and other reports of multiple injuries, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission in January 2010 announced on its website that Dorel Asia SRL of Barbados was voluntarily starting a recall to replace drop side and non-drop side cribs. This recall involves 20 models. It covers nearly 635,000 drop-side and fixed-front-rail Dorel Asia cribs sold by Kmart, Sears, Wal-Mart and other stores.

The Product Safety Commission is advising owners of these cribs to stop using them immediately until replacement kits are obtained and installed.

The Commission and Dorel Asia have received reports of 31 drop side incidents. In six cases, children were trapped between the drop side and crib mattress. In addition three babies suffered bruises.


Defective cribs and playpens pose serious dangers. Infants and toddlers can become entangled, trapped, or strangled by improperly designed or weak slats. Defective bedding can lead to airway obstruction when babies are trapped between the mattress and the side of the crib.


In February 2010, the Consumer Product Safety Commission recalled more than 500,000 drop-side cribs sold at Buy Buy Baby, Kmart, Wal-Mart and other stores after three infants died. According to the Commission, plastic hardware on Generation 2 Worldwide and ChildESIGNS cribs can break and allow the drop side to detach. The mattress supports can also break away from the crib frame. Both defects create gaps that allow babies and small children become trapped that can result in suffocation or strangulation.

02/23/10 at 10:23amStopping Your Runaway Car

According to the Consumer Reports Car Blog, there are five steps that can save your life if you find yourself in a runaway car caused by sudden and unintended acceleration.

1. Brake firmly.
Do not pump the brakes. Do not turn off the engine yet, because doing so would disable the power assist for your steering and brakes.

2. Shift the transmission into Neutral. Don't worry if the engine revs up alarmingly - most modern cars have rev-limiters to protect it, and this move will put you in back in control of your vehicle.

3. Steer to a safe location and come to a full stop.

4. Shut off the engine with the transmission still in Neutral.

5. Finally, shift the transmission into Park or, with a manual transmission, set the emergency brake. Then call for help. Do not attempt to drive the car.

Consumer Reports suggests that you memorize these steps in case you experience unintended acceleration. Practice makes perfect so you might consider practicing them in a safe location at low speeds. They could save your life and those of your loved ones and others.

02/23/10 at 10:19amHonda Airbag

Inflation Recall

According to The Associated Press, Honda Motor Company has now recalled more than 822,000 vehicles, including some 2001 and 2002 Accord sedans, Civic compacts, Odyssey minivans, CR-V small sport utility vehicles and some 2002 Acura TL sedans because they have air bag inflation problems. Honda will replace the driver's side air bag inflator on these recalled cars because the airbags can deploy with too much pressure. The inflator ruptures and propels metal fragments toward the driver. These defective airbags can injure or kill the driver.

Honda originally announced the airbag recall to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in November of 2008. The first recall covered four thousand 2001 Accords and Civics. The recall was expanded in July of 2009 to 440,000 vehicles including the 2001 and 2002 Accord and Civic, and some 2002 Acura TL sedans.

Honda advised owners to take their vehicles to dealerships as soon as they are notified in writing. Apparently car owner notification will begin during February.

02/19/10 at 1:43pmShoulder Pain Pumps Following Surgery

May Cause Permanent Cartilage Damage and Joint Pain

The Food and Drug has recently issued an alert [November 13, 2009 Updated: February 16, 2010] after reviewing 35 reports of damaged and destroyed cartilage in patients who were given pain pumps after shoulder surgery. The death of the cartilage causes a grinding bone-on-bone joint resulting in the severe pain.  A pain pump is medical device used to manage post-operative pain.  This device pumps continuous pain relief medication directly into the patient’s shoulder by way of a catheter.

There is currently evidence that these pain pumps have caused irreversible shoulder damage, (glenohumeral chondrolysis,” which is the complete or nearly complete loss of cartilage in the shoulder joint.  Glenohumeral chondrolysis cannot be treated.  Cartliag damage is irreversible.  This is a disabling and excruciatingly painful condition. The injured person may well need to take medication for life and may have to undergo reconstructive shoulder surgery. 

The FDA is now requiring physicians to inform their patients about the substantial risk that the insertion of shoulder pain pumps may lead to Chrondrolysis.  Despite their rather widespread use, the FDA never approved pain pumps for use in joints.

Before undergoing shoulder surgery or any other type of joint surgery you should carefully question your surgeon about both the benefits and the potential damagers of pain pumps.  More than 140 lawsuits have been filed against manufacturers of these pain pumps (one being I-Flow Corp. of Lake Forest, California).  The plaintiffs in these lawsuits are claiming these companies negligently encouraged physicians to inset catheters directly into the shoulder joint space even though the safety of this technique has never been studied.

02/09/10 at 8:12amSudden Acceleration

Deaths and Injuries

In October 2009 Toyota Motor Corp. President Akio Toyoda issued a public apology for the deaths of four California family members.  According to information received during a 911 call, California Highway Patrol Officer Mark Saylor was unable to stop the Lexus ES 350 sedan he was driving after it suddenly began to accelerate to more than 100 mph.  The vehicle crashed and then burst into flames, killing the officer, his wife, daughter and brother-in-law.

Unfortunately, this is not the only fatal wreck caused by sudden unintended acceleration.   According to Safety Research & Strategies, Inc., there have been 16 deaths and 243 injuries caused by sudden unexplained acceleration of Toyota vehicles. 

According to the Associated Press, Toyota Motor Corporation announced on Tuesday, January 26, 2009, that it was no longer selling some of its models.  The week before that, Toyota recalled eight of its models, about 2.3 million cars.  In addition, Toyota as of February 1, 2010, is suspending production of new cars at six of its North American car assembly plants.

If you or family members have been injured as the result of sudden unexplained acceleration of a Toyota car you or they may be entitled to compensation.  Contact an attorney immediately.  It is also very important that you preserve the vehicle.  It can be very difficult to sue an automobile manufacturer if the vehicle has been destroyed or crushed. 

The Fitzgerald Law Firm has handled numerous defective products cases and we have set our fees so that anyone can talk with us free of charge about a potential case against Toyota Motor Corporation.

02/04/10 at 2:43pmWyoming Medical Review Panel

Hasn't Lowered Doctors' Costs

In 2005, Wyoming doctors succeeded getting the State Legislature to pass a bill requiring injured patients who want to file medical malpractice lawsuits to first file their claims with the Wyoming Medical Review Panel.  Physicians argued this panel was needed to stop frivolous medical malpractice lawsuits and to lower their malpractice insurance costs.

However, as reported in the Sunday, January 31, 2010, Cheyenne Wyoming Tribune-Eagle, the Wyoming Medical Review Panel has not lowered medical malpractice insurance costs.  One reason is that most Wyoming doctors, surgeons, radiologists, pathologists, nurses, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, hospitals, assisted living centers and nursing homes are waiving their rights to take the case to the panel.  They choose not to have the panel hear their side of the story. The Wyoming Medical Review Panel requires filing by patients alleging injury or death of a family member, but the health care providers do not have to file any defense.  Patients must hire expert witnesses to testify before the panel but doctors can merely opt out of the process. 

Opting out of the Medical Review Panel not only hurts doctors, it also hurts patients.  As noted in the article:

Cheyenne attorney Jim Fitzgerald said the medical view panel gives patients a chance to be heard. Opting out of the review process almost guarantees that the only way to resolve a claim is to go to court.

The review process allows patients to determine whether their case is strong enough to go to court. He said that in some cases, physicians were encouraged to settle if a panel of their peers criticized the care they had provided. Fitzgerald added that the original medical review panel also was more effective because doctors used it.

Jim Fitzgerald is more than willing to go to court but it is too bad for the patients with meritorious claims to not even get a hearing in front of the panel first.  For the panel process to work, everyone in the medical profession who has been blamed medical negligence needs to step up to the plate and present their side of the story to the Wyoming Medical Review Panel. 

02/02/10 at 3:42pmSudden Acceleration

In Toyota and Lexus Vehicles

Research reveals Toyota may have known about some vehicles’ sudden acceleration problem for at least five 5 years before notifying the public.  The Center for Auto Safety reported sudden acceleration problems in the 2002-2003 Toyota Camry and Solara and also in the 2002-2003 Lexus ES 300.  On March 22, 2004, Automotive News reported the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) began a preliminary investigation of 37 complaints of sudden acceleration made by Toyota and Lexus car owners.  So far, there have been more than 2,000 complaints of this defect reported to the automaker and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Although Toyota and NHTSA apparently both believed the electronic throttle in these vehicles was the most likely cause of the sudden accelerations, Toyota continued to install these suspect electronic throttles in hundreds of thousands of new automobiles. Toyota publicly placed blame on the floor mats in these defective cars.

If you or family members have been injured as the result of sudden unexplained acceleration of a Toyota car, you or they may be entitled to compensation.  Contact an attorney immediately.  It is also very important that you preserve the vehicle.  It can be very difficult to sue an automobile manufacturer if the vehicle has been destroyed or crushed.

The Fitzgerald Law Firm has handled numerous defective products cases and we have set our fees so that anyone can talk with us free of charge about a potential case against Toyota Motor Corporation.

01/15/10 at 9:27amTrucking Accident Lawsuits

Contacting Help Imediately

Thousands of people are seriously injured or killed each year in collisions that involve large trucks or buses versus a car, motorcycle, sports utility vehicle, van or light truck.  People who suffer spinal cord injuries, broken bones, internal injuries, traumatic brain injuries (TBI) or loss of a loved one are entitled to compensation.  Money compensation includes such things as medical expenses, including hospital bills, doctor bills and medical tests; pain and suffering, loss of a job, loss of income or future earnings and loss of a loved one’s support and companionship.

However, winning a truck accident case requires working with experts in the industry, such as highly respected accident reconstruction engineers.  These experts analyze and investigate the crash site, the damaged vehicles and use the latest technology to reconstruct the accident.  They can provide testimony on such things as the speeds of the vehicles shortly before the crash by looking at collision data recorders [black boxes], skid marks, sight distance, alcohol as a factor, weather, semi-tractor braking performance, and seat belt malfunctions and use.

If you or a family member were seriously injured in a collision, or lost a loved one, one of the first things you must do if you want to preserve your rights is contact a knowledgeable, skilled lawyer immediately.  Delaying contacting a competent, experienced law firm can seriously affect your rights to receive compensation.  The trucking company rushes right out and starts its investigation, usually directed at getting out of trouble.  So, you need to involve your own team as soon as possible.

01/08/10 at 7:21amTrucking Laws

The Importance of Regulations

Federal law requires semi-trucks and trailers, flatbed truck and buses to pass rigorous inspections because they are do dangerous.  Truck drivers and bus drivers are supposed to be well-trained.  There are strict limitations on how long they can be on the road without sleep and without time off.  These rules, if followed, prevent driver fatigue. Unfortunately, some trucking companies do not enforce the rules, and turn a blind eye to violations. 

Our law firm has obtained large recoveries for families and those injured in car, bus and truck accident cases.  In a recent case, the jury rendered its verdict in favor of a widow and two sons of a man killed by a trucker who violated the rules.  The jury found the defendant trucking company 100% at fault, awarded damages to make up for the losses, and also awarded punitive damages.  Punitive damages, also known as exemplary damages, are awarded to punish a defendant and make an example of it to deter other companies from bad conduct.

This deadly wreck occurred on I-80 in Wyoming near Elk Mountain.  The weather was bad and the road was icy and slick. There were blizzard conditions with gusting winds causing frequent whiteouts.   The truck driver was driving too fast for conditions, and was over-hours on the driving limitations, violating the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR). When the jury found for the survivors, it did more than just compensate for their losses. It also made an example of that company, so that others would see the consequences of the rules violations.

12/17/09 at 9:03pmCheck Toy Labels before Kids Check under the Tree

Tougher Federal Regulations Ensure Better Safety in 2009

Now that we’re in the midst of the gift-giving season, no matter what traditions your family celebrates, one thing is for certain – toys given to tots should stand up to the highest safety standards.


In the wake of the lead scare from 2008 and 2007, the U.S. Product Safety Commission is assuring parents this year that tougher standards and fewer recalls mean toys are getting safer.


Last month, the Commission hosted a “Town Hall on Toy Safety” to educate parents headed into the shopping season and blogged it with the New York Times.


A quick review of recent recalls by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reveals that while the organization is cracking down on consumer product recalls, deadly injuries to children from falls and choking hazards are still a big concern. From pacifiers to bicycles, the U.S. Product Consumer Safety Commission tracks which products are causing the greatest harm.


Quick tips for parents from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission include:


· For children three and under - avoid balloons, small balls (1.75” diameter or less) and check to see if toy is well made since children under three years old put everything in their mouth and pull and twist toys.


· For preschoolers, avoid toys that are constructed with thin, brittle plastic that can easily break into jagged, sharp pieces. Look for art materials designated as toxic safe with this designation – “ASTM D-4236.”


· For children over six years old, teach them to keep their toys away from younger siblings. Adults should check all toys for breakage. Throw away damaged toys. If you buy a bicycle for a child, buy a helmet and make them wear it.


But some consumer groups have challenged the Commission for not going far enough by enforcing tougher safety regulations. The National Resources Defense Council and Public Citizen have sued the Commission for failing to remove unsafe toxic toys immediately off of store shelves. A federal judge agreed with the consumer groups and in February ruled that toxic toys must come off store shelves. The Commission was forced to close toy safety loopholes.


The U.S. Pirg has distinguished itself as a toy safety czar for its annual toy safety survey. The report is specifically for parents and can be downloaded by computer or smart phone at www.toysafety.mobi. The 24th annual Trouble in Toyland survey focuses on three categories of toy and children’s products hazards:


  • toys and items that may pose choking hazards,

  • toys and items that are excessively loud, and

  • toys and items that contain the toxic chemicals lead and phthalates.


Thankfully, smart toy dealers are starting to capitalize on what consumers want by making toy safety a hallmark of their brand. Fatbraintoys.com prescreens their toys against toxic substances and hazards so toy shoppers don’t have to. The company has started identifying every country of every toy they sell - so far they’ve identified more than 20 countries. The site also provides a comprehensive list of links to safety information for more than 85 toy manufacturers.


We know the hustle and bustle of the holidays can sometimes distract us from what’s truly important. This holiday season, take time to ensure the safety of what’s most precious to you, and spend an extra moment celebrating the traditions that bring you and your loved ones together.

12/09/09 at 2:15pmDrop-Side Cribs Can Be A Potential Nightmare for Parents. Are Your Children Safe?

For parents, the safety of your child is perhaps one of the most paramount priorities -- no matter whether your son or daughter is a toddler or teenager. For parents with young children, this priority is probably even more pronounced, and when a presumably reliable consumer product puts your young child at risk, it calls for intense scrutiny into what’s keeping this product on the market.

On the heels of the largest crib recall in U.S. history, hundreds of thousands of children could be at risk to crib-related injuries, even death. The Consumer Product Safety Commission recently recalled 2.1 million drop-side cribs manufactured by Stork Craft, which was responsible for more than a dozen injuries and killed four children.


The Consumer Product Safety Commission has reported dozens of deaths over the past decade involving drop-side cribs made by different manufacturers, but still, drop-side cribs continue to be very popular among parents. Unlike cribs with immovable parts, the design of the drop-side crib tends to experience more hardware failures than traditional cribs and accounts for the vast majority of cribs recalled in the past two years. While many parents may find that the drop-side eases access to the crib, more must be done to educate parents of the dangers the moving parts present.


Even more alarming is that most cribs recalled met current mandatory safety standards put in place by the federal government as well as voluntary standards suggested by non-government organizations. The Consumer Product Safety Commission is planning to revisit and will possibly revise these standards; however some consumer advocates believe these cribs should be banned altogether.


ASTM International, a U.S.-based standards-setting organization, proposed a ban on drop-side cribs and some retailers, including Toys-R-Us, have already discontinued them from their stores. Many consumer advocates, crib makers and other industry stakeholders also support the ban and advise against buying drop-side cribs.


Until the Consumer Product Safety Commission enforces new standards or bans drop-side cribs completely, we urge parents to avoid buying new or used drop-side cribs. For families who already own a drop-side crib, the key to preventing injury is to make sure the crib is properly assembled. Periodically check the hardware on their cribs to make sure they are in place and functioning according to the crib’s assembly instructions.

11/24/09 at 4:08pmIncreasing car safety, but is technology putting passengers at risk?

These days, as consumers covet the latest gadgets and technologic trends to ease and organize their everyday lives, we’re also seeing the advances of technology make their way into the development safety features in the automotive industry.


While heated seats and automated voice dialing are sought after amenities, carmakers are now turning their attention to added features that are more than just luxuries – but lifesavers.


Inflatable seatbelts – it’s the latest innovation of the Ford Motor Company that aims to improve car safety and perhaps the company’s image. Next year the carmaker will feature the new seat belt in its Explorer SUV before it rolls out in all vehicles.


New Mercedes Benz ads tout unseen features like a high-frequency radar transceiver that scans the road ahead for any kind of roadblock – cars, deer and more. Active Cruise Control allows a driver to set a desired speed and if traffic slows, the car reduces speed and sets a safe following distance to the car ahead.


As consumers are looking for improved and smarter safety features that set cars apart, we can’t help but think about the risks – or potential risks -- of these new features.


In the 1960s, laws passed that required all cars to have lap belts for all passengers. It was a huge move that kicked off automobile safety around the world.


In the past 50 years, technology has taken over with air bag sensors, cars with reverse cameras, antilock brakes (ABS) and more. The MSNBC article talking about inflatable seat belts also refers s to the vision of completely automated cars – the driver enters and the car drives itself.


These are features that can certainly save lives, but what happens when technology fails? Recently, discussion has increased around the effectiveness of air bag sensors. In many new cars there are sensors in the front passenger side of a car that use a number of factors like weight and seat position to determine the force of which to deploy should there be an accident -- or disarm it completely, if needed.


Lexus was recently sued over the air bags in its 2007 ES350 models. The suit alleges the vehicle’s air bag classification sensor doesn’t work properly in the front passenger seat, sometimes failing to trigger the correct front air bag during an accident.


As tools and technology evolve not only in the auto industry, but in all aspects of our daily lives, these are issues that will soon need to be addressed – it’s not question of ease and luxury, but rather safety and security.

10/06/09 at 5:57pmIs There a Hidden Danger in Your Car Mats?

In 2008 alone, 37,261 people died in car accidents on our nation’s roadways and more than 2 million people suffered accident-related injuries. The good news is that fatalities are down more than nine percent from 2007, and last year traffic related deaths hit an all time low since 1961.


This tells us that cars are safer. It also tells us that regardless of the intent or mind frame of the driver, accidents still happen and there may be hidden dangers in your car unbeknownst to most drivers.


For instance, have you ever considered your car mats a danger?


There was an accident in California this summer that killed four people. The cause? The driver’s all-weather floor mat got caught under the pedals, jamming the gas pedal to the floor. The driver was an off-duty police officer and he was driving a Lexus – a good car and he was a presumed safe driver.


You can view an MSNBC story of the California accident here - http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21134540/vp/32950076#32950076


The problem with car mats lies in the size of the mat and the hooks placed under the seats that prevent the mats from moving around. If these hooks are missing, broken or aren’t fastened correctly it’s easy for mats to slip around and possibly get stuck under the brake and gas pedals.


Another problem lies in after-market floor mats. Many of the standard mats you can buy don’t come with any fasteners to hold them in place, giving them a tendency to slip forward.


To ensure you have the right mats in your car, always use mats provided by the car’s manufacturer.


Because of the accident in California, Toyota ordered 1,400 Toyota and Lexus dealers to inspect cars for mismatched floor mats and proper installation. Toyota is also putting car wash attendants, independent inspectors and others on alert to check floor mats to ensure they are the right size and installed properly.


To ensure customer safety, Toyota announced this week that it is recalling 3.8 million vehicles because of the floor mat issues. This includes some of Toyota’s most popular models – Camry and Prius, and some models of Lexus. This marks the Japanese company’s largest U.S. recall to date.


So where do legal issues fall into place with car mats?


If you have an accident due to faulty car mats, fasteners or installation and the manufacturer provided the mat, there may be a broader product liability issue at hand. If you are not sure of the cause, there are ways to find out.


Car safety is a top priority for manufacturers, and carmakers have a lot at stake if the cars they build put drivers and passengers in harms way. We encourage your thoughts and comments on this issue.


If you’ve had problems with car mats slipping, or sticking under your pedals, make sure you let your dealership know. A proactive approach is the best way to ensure safety on the road.

09/29/09 at 4:03pmPlaying it Safe: New Requirements on Third-Party Toy Testing

Last week we started a discussion on the dangers of chemicals in children’s toys and what the U.S. is doing to ramp up its oversight and regulation of the market. We addressed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 and today we’re going to look at another component of that act.


Third-party inspections are common practice when purchasing a house, ending a lease on a vehicle or going through medical testing. Now, thanks to the 2008 Act, it’s also a part of toy regulation. All toys intended for use by children aged 12 and younger require third-party certification.


This puts an additional duty on the product manufacturer to ensure that any toy made in the U.S. or imported to the U.S. meets all requirements and undergoes a certification process based on tests run by an independent laboratory that’s been accredited by the Commission.


For the past year, the Commission has been issuing accreditation procedures to labs across the country. At the end of this month, this phase of the process will be complete.


Moving forward, every toy made for children 12 and younger must arrive with a certificate in order to be sold in U.S. stores. The certificate has four important requirements, it must:

  • Be in English
  • Include the identity of the manufacturer or private labeler
  • Include the date and place of manufacturing, and
  • Include the date and place of testing


Once toys arrive at retail stores, all certificates are checked before placing the products on the shelves. The lack of a certificate prohibits the product from importation or distribution within the U.S.


We believe these additional testing requirements may give parents some peace of mind – that their children are no longer guinea pigs of toy manufacturers. In essence, the Commission forces manufacturers to take accountability for their products or force severe consequences.


For toys intended for use by children 12 and older, the rules are different. Testing and certificates are still required, but such toys do not need to go through a third-party accredited laboratory. The certificate that accompanies these products simply says it complies with all consumer and safety regulations and standards.


Manufacturers have until Feb. 10, 2010 before they must issue certificates.


We’ve spent the last two weeks addressing toy safety and the new Act, but we want to know what other questions you have? What concerns haven’t been addressed? Do you think the Act goes far enough to protect our kids?

09/16/09 at 9:00amProtecting our Children from Lead in Toys: New Laws to Ensure Safety

It wasn’t too long ago that media, consumer groups and parents nationwide were immersed in the dangers of toxic chemicals in toys. At the forefront of the discussion was Thomas the Train Engine, a television character, made into a toy, beloved by young children throughout the country. Due to the toy’s popularity, when rumors of lead in the toy arose, thousands of parents across the country were all the more apprehensive.

The problem was in the paint. Fisher Price produced these Thomas the Train Engine toys with a surface paint containing dangerous levels of lead that, according to reports, could cause severe injury to young children if exposed to such high levels.


For many parents around the country, accountability became the most important issue. Who is responsible for monitoring toys and how can I ensure my kids are safe?


That’s why, during this period, many other toys came under the spotlight for the possibility of dangerous chemicals in the paint. These toys included popular products such as Polly Pockets, Dora the Explorer and many more. In total, Fisher-Price recalled almost 90 toys during the summer of 2007.


In 2008, Congress passed and signed into law the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act which works to strengthen and broaden consumer product safety laws within the U.S.


One of the phases of the Act addresses lead paint. The new lower limits apply to three categories of products:


  1. Liquid paint and similar surface coatings intended for consumer use;
  2. Surface coatings on toys and other items intended for use by children; and
  3. Surface coatings of a variety of consumer furniture items.


The Consumer Product Safety Commission administers and enforces this new act and requires that manufacturers, importers and retailers comply with new requirements, standards and restrictions. The Act also raises potential civil penalties to $100,000 per individual violation, $15 million for aggregate violations and it increases potential criminal penalties to five years of imprisonment.


These new provisions and penalties help to keep companies accountable and put more control in the hands of the Commissions by allowing it to monitor and enforce new requirements. The Commission is responsible to make certain that toy companies respond and reconfigure toys when safety is called into question.


We’re going to continue this discussion next week and talk about different facets of the Act.


In the meantime, we encourage your comments and feedback on the topic. As a parent, what is your single biggest concern in toy safety? What would you like to see done to protect kids?

09/09/09 at 8:27amMining Disasters: Willful and Wanton Misconduct in Wyoming and West Virginia

As you know from our Web page, www.fitzgeraldlaw.com, it was our privilege to represent a miner in Campbell County, Wyoming District Court who was severely and permanently injured in a mine disaster. We sued the mine manager and manager of safety who ignored numerous safety warnings. You can find the opinion by typing American National Bank in the line asking for "Appellant or Appellee" at http://courts.state.wy.us/Opinions.aspx. This trial resulted in the largest verdict in Wyoming history for physical injuries.


Another mine disaster happened in West Virginia as we were investigating the Wyoming case. On the morning of Jan. 2, 2006, after the completion of New Year’s celebrations, many around the country began this day with a renewed sense of hope. For a small mining community in West Virginia, the date holds special meaning. This was the morning of the Sago Mine disaster that killed 12 men.


The accident grabbed the attention of national news outlets as rescuers faced the daunting task of reaching 13 trapped men before the gases in the mine took their lives. This two-day ordeal snowballed into a roller coaster for families as the company announced 12 men survived, then quickly revoked the statement and said all but one had died.


There’s no question mining is a dangerous occupation and lot that can go wrong deep below the earth’s surface, but it’s also the responsibility of the mining company to maintain a certain level safety standards. That’s why following the incident, countless questions of accountability and safety arose.


To date, a total of six families who lost loved ones in the disaster have reached wrongful death settlements with the mine company and suppliers.


Randal McCloy Jr., the sole survivor of the accident, also filed suit against the mine’s owner and other companies. The suits all include similar allegations of negligence by International Cole Group (ICG), and other companies, and a failure to maintain a safe working environment. All families involved filed suit in Kanawha County Circuit Court.


Ultimately, the men that died suffered from carbon monoxide poisoning. The account McCloy’s given of the 40 grueling hours trapped beneath the surface can bring a grown man to tears as he recounts watching his friends and co-workers each slip away.


It’s cases like these where it seems no settlement or lawsuit can bring justice.


We worked on a mining accident a few years ago. A mother of four was volunteering at a fundraising event staged by the Kiwanis Club and City of Bisbee, AZ. It was Halloween and she was an actor inside an old copper mine, assigned to jump out of a dark corner as passengers came by in a train.


A rotted support beam broke and she became trapped between the train and the wall of the mine. The mother of four was unable to breathe after being wedged and died a day later from positional asphyxia.


We filed suit claiming the mine was not properly lit and there was not an adequate contingency plan in place to deal with emergencies. We ended up settling the case for $2.5 million, which we've been told is the largest wrongful death settlement in the history of Cochise County.


Justice, it’s a simple idea yet can get so complicated when you have parent companies, subsidiaries, vendors and other contract companies contributing to a project. We looked for accountability in the Wyoming and Arizona mine cases. What would justice look like to you if you were a family member of one of the victims? What would you expect if you lost your mother to a senseless and avoidable accident? We’re interested in hearing from you.

09/02/09 at 7:29pmCASPPER the Friendly Ghost? Not for Paxil Maker GlaxoSmithKline

GlaxoSmithKline is under intense scrutiny regarding marketing and promotion tactics used for its popular anti-depressant drug, Paxil. Recently, the Associated Press covered a story on the company’s use of ghostwriting and an internal program that it ironically calls CASPPER.

Ghostwriting is a commonly used marketing tool to promote products or services through planted articles published by “experts.” In the instance of GSK, the company pushed salespeople to approach and assist physicians in writing and publishing articles touting their positive experiences in prescribing the drug to patients.


The articles tie doctors to the information, which worked to mislead readers and patients into believing that if a doctor says it’s great – it must be!


What readers don’t know is the pharmaceutical giant wrote many of the articles, highlighting all the positive attributes of the drug and granted it higher credibility by assigning it to a practicing physician. In the end, patients were injured as a result of GSK’s practices and misleading efforts to tout the drug.


There are lawsuits filed against the company that assert the company downplayed risks, including increased suicidal behavior and birth defects. For a patient needing help with depression, it’s necessary to share knowledge about these kinds of risks.


Perhaps even more disturbing is the company’s internal play on words for the program. Disguising a ghostwriting practice under the headline of CASPPER – is that compassion? Or do you think it shows disregard and lack of respect for patients? We do.


According to the recent AP story, articles from CASPPER appeared in five journals from 2000 to 2002. After we kicked GSK all around the courtroom, resulting in a $6.400,000.00 verdict in Cheyenne in 2001, at least it improved its warnings. Meanwhile, it was out hustling doctors to stand in for its ghostwriters.


What are your thoughts? Do you believe the ghostwriting practice in the pharmaceutical industry is misleading? Potentially damaging to your health and the health of your loved ones?


Ghostwriting practices are coming under the limelight more frequently as people have started questioning the true credibility of these articles. We’re involved in baby cases now, in which babies were damaged when their mothers took Paxil while pregnant. As our cases progress and the issue is discussed in the media, we’ll continue posting here. This is an important issue to us as we’ve seen the ill effects of these programs in our clients.

08/26/09 at 8:02amPropane Tanks: Dangers and Safeguards

Millions of Americans use propane every day. It’s a great energy source that burns cleanly and efficiently, giving consumers more value for their energy dollar.

During the summer months, propane tanks are in high demand for barbecues, outdoor heating lamps, air conditioners and more. We equate these gatherings with a time to relax and have fun with friends and family - rarely do we think about the real dangers these tanks pose.


The reality is these tanks are full of pressurized gas. A small ignition source is all that’s needed to transform a nice, calm gathering into a dangerous inferno.


Every year we get reports of house fires, severe injuries, and deaths caused by propane explosions. Today we want to address the dangers of propane tanks and how people can protect themselves.


When a propane tank explodes, there can be several reasons, including product malfunction or negligence on behalf of the gas company responsible for filling the tank. Below we’ve included a few incidents that highlight different circumstances:


  • A Kentucky couple suffered serious burns after their house exploded. Investigators believe a propane gas buildup under the couple's home caused the explosion. Family members of the couple reported that the propane tank was recently filled. One of the victims had burns covering more than 40 percent of her body.

  • An Oregon man suffered severe injuries while trying to light the propane stove in a recreational vehicle. The force of the blast sent windows flying approximately 30 feet and resulted in second-degree burns to the man's face. 

  • Two people suffered injuries and a hotel was damaged after a propane explosion. The explosion occurred while a gas company employee was filling the hotel's underground propane tank. Investigators believe the truck used to fill the propane tank had a mechanical problem, which caused the explosion.


When the cause of an incident is negligent behavior by a gas company or a faulty product, victims can pursue justice to pay for medical bills and to see to it that the companies change their practices, so others don’t have to suffer similar fates.


There are many cases citing overfilled tanks which result in explosions inside a home. Yet, manufacturers are required to add an odor to propane, making it easier to identify a leak. Propane is supposed to smell like rotten eggs, a skunk’s spray or a dead animal. When manufacturers sometimes they fail to, or are careless in other ways, they endanger consumers.


We invite your thoughts and comments on propane tanks.

08/19/09 at 3:02pmCan Trial Lawyers Instigate Positive Change in the Auto Industry?

Airbags. They come standard with any new car you purchase and serve a role in protecting both drivers and passengers from harm. Recently, airbags became the center of discussion when Honda recalled hundreds of thousands of cars over safety concerns. Models affected include the 2001 to 2002 Honda Accord, 2001 Civic and the 2002 and 2003 Acura TL.


The issue? Over-pressurized driver-side airbags that tend to rupture when the airbag activates. The company says sometimes metal fragments can erupt through the cloth airbag material and possibly cause injury or death to those in the vehicle. To date, the airbag defect has caused six injuries and one death.

These set of facts coupled with recent car accidents have caused me to reflect on the automotive industry, and how we, as trial lawyers, have instigated positive change to make cars safer over the years.

We at the Fitzgerald Law Firm have filed suit against Honda in the past for defects in its restraint systems. This airbag matter is a perfect example of an opportunity where a lawsuit could incite change in the automotive industry.

Automotive News did a story several years ago on this issue and we’ve highlighted a few of these instances below from the Automotive News article:

  • "Paddle Door Latch" litigation in Iowa and Pennsylvania in the mid 1960's contributed significantly to the introduction of the recessed door handle designs in use today.

  • Litigation beginning as early as 1969 arising out of excessive roof crush in rollover incidents has been a substantial factor in the improvement of roof strength including what General Motors currently refers to as its "rugged safety cages."
  • As a result of the Ford Pinto fire litigation, Ford added a fuel tank shield to prevent puncture by the rear axle bolts and discontinued its drop-in fuel tank design in which the top of the fuel tank also serves as the floor of the trunk.

In the Honda example, any one of the injured occupants could file a suit against Honda claiming defective design that resulted in personal injury.

But how does that happen – how does a lawsuit instigate change?

Verdicts and settlement aren’t only about money. Oftentimes details included in settlements lead to reform from within a company. Some changes stemming from lawsuits include additional safety testing, revised safety codes for airbags, and in-depth reports and evaluations of materials used in steering wheels and more.

Proper monitoring and oversight within the automotive industry is an enormous task - far larger and complicated than our government can handle. Through lawsuits, attorneys highlight problems, raise attention when it’s deserved and dedicate the private resources needed to make sure positive change comes out of the cases they pursue. Very often trial lawyers help accelerate necessary safety, keep companies accountable and prevent serious injuries issuing from unsafe vehicles.

… so the overwhelming verdict is yes, trial lawyers can help make cars safer.

08/12/09 at 12:31pmPaxil and Pregnancy - A Dangerous Combination

Pregnancies are typically a time when men celebrate with a cigar and women daydream about names – but what about the issue of tackling depression while pregnant? What medication is safe to take and what’s dangerous? What regulations do drug companies face regarding the marketing of these drugs and warnings of use while pregnant?

Before we delve into this, I want to first look at a recent study conducted by Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research. The group found that more than one in seven women are either depressed in the nine months before pregnancy, during their pregnancy, or in the nine-month period after giving birth.

The study also revealed that women with a history of depression are at a higher risk for postpartum depression – 54 percent of women in the study suffering from postpartum suffered from depression before or during their pregnancy.

This tells us two things: first, that depression is a significant issue for women during pregnancy, and second, that something must be done to treat women suffering from depression in all stages of their pregnancy.

In 2005, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), the maker of Paxil, released a study that showed an increased risk of heart defects in pregnant women who take the prescription anti-depressant during their first trimester. Both the FDA and GSK were surprised by the results, as they conflicted with previous statements on Paxil and pregnancy.

Most alarming, the study revealed there’s a greater risk associated with Paxil than other anti-depressant medications.

As a result of the study, the FDA required GSK to change the pill’s classification from a C to a D – meaning it should be avoided during pregnancy.

Paxil, first introduced in the U.S. in 1992, was available for more than a decade to fight depression, anxiety and other disorders before GSK issued its warnings. It’s reasonable to assume thousands of mothers used the medication while pregnant--so what is the responsibility of the drug maker?

GSK has a responsibility to consumers to communicate any risks associated with its drugs. That includes conducting due diligence and product testing before submitting any medication to the FDA for approval.

As patients, we are at the mercy of the drug makers and the federal agencies. It can be terrifying. How is an expectant mother at home in Wyoming supposed to know everything about the drugs she’s taking? She can do as much research as she likes, but if the information isn’t available and published, there is no way of knowing.

That’s where private litigation comes in.

Through lawsuits, we have the power to uncover risks and information withheld from the public and improve the way drug makers and the FDA research and release new drugs to the market.

Above all, before a patient begins any drug regime, it’s important to conduct personal research and ask for a second opinion. It’s hard to know or identify the motivating factors behind a prescription, but years of lawsuits against those in the pharmaceutical industry tells us that fraud and misleading practices hide behind many doors. For more information, see www.paxilandbabies.com.

07/29/09 at 5:52pmCould Buttery Popcorn Lead to Life-Threatening Illnesses for Plant Workers?

Popcorn usually leads to weight gain in our nation’s movie-going population, but in 2000, a Missouri doctor noticed a startling and growing trend stemming from several microwavable popcorn factories. A flavor additive that increases the buttery taste of popcorn can lead to a rare, life-threatening disease in the lungs of plant workers.


The culprit is diacetyl, a food-flavoring agent.


In 2007, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) began investigating the issue. What OSHA found was surprising – workers became ill due to prolonged exposure to diacetyl. What OSHA did about the problem was even surprising – little to nothing.


The organization failed to issue national warnings, inspect additional plants or even mandate safety standards to protect workers from the effects of diacetyl.


Popcorn workers in close contact with the chemical, either testing bags or simply being too close to the production were poisoned by the diacetyl in the factories and developed a disease called “popcorn lung.” Patients who experience this horrible disease usually develop a severe drop in lung capacity, making it much harder to breathe.


A 2007 New York Times article cites that a man who contracted the disease in his mid-40s displayed the lung capacity of an 80-year-old. The disease can without a doubt severely limit and affect ones life.


Hundreds of plan workers have become ill from diacetyl poisoning. We believe there was time to warn and protect these workers. At OSHA, the issue is high on the agenda of safety measures to move forward. OSHA is ramping up efforts to protect plant workers from “popcorn lung.”


The labor department has sped up the process of establishing rules to protect workers from exposure to the harmful chemical. Workers support the move, while business groups wonder if due diligence has been conducted regarding the cause of popcorn lung and risks of diacetyl.


We’re hopeful that plant workers will get protection and education on risks and symptoms associated with the disease. As it’s said, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

06/22/09 at 8:20pmWelcome!

Welcome to the Fitzgerald Law Firm blog: An Ounce of Prevention.

We will be posting on a variety of topics related to severe personal injury and wrongful death. Our blog will feature cases and tell the stories and lessons we’ve learned that can help prevent bodily injuries and wrongful death.


We know that each case holds personal meaning for our clients, so instead of looking at our cases from a strictly legal perspective, our blog’s focus is on individuals and the stories behind our cases. It is our belief that by examining the stories behind accidents, we can draw valuable lessons on how to prevent harmful mishaps in the future.


In our practice, we’ve witnessed individuals who need years of costly medical care after tragic injuries. Many of these individuals are unable to return to work and incur significant losses to their livelihood. We’ve also seen families lose loved ones due to the negligent behavior of companies, government, and individuals.


At The Fitzgerald Law Firm, while we work to recover money for our clients, we also try to prevent injury, wrongful death and financial burdens from negligent causes. Our verdicts and settlements have totaled millions of dollars over the years, but we stand firm in the belief that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”


We hope that you find our entries to be interesting and informative. From time to time, we will deviate from the law and opine about things that makes us happy, cause us concern, or things we think deserve the benefits of conversation. We welcome your comments, invite you to bookmark our posts and subscribe to our RSS feed.


Please note that our blog posts do not constitute legal advice and your comments will not be treated as confidential. If you wish to discuss your legal matter with us privately, please contact our office for a consultation.