Farming communities are divided over the use of Monsanto’s newest and high-profile product. Dicamba is a genetically-modified soybean that is resistant to pesticides. The seed is meant to be used in conjunction with Monsanto weed-killers, such as RoundUp, to allow for spraying without damaging the crops. Although this is certainly not the first time the company has released a genetically-modified organism (GMO)-their first release was in the early 1990s-this is certainly the most controversial, due to the fact that 25 million acres have already been planted. Many farmers, mainly from the South and Midwest, have joined a class-action lawsuit against Monsanto claiming that dicamba drifted onto their property and damaged their non-GMO crops.

GMOs that are immune to pesticides have potential unforeseen environmental and health consequences. For example, environmentalists are afraid that creating crops immune to such poisons will increase the amount that has to be used. Monsanto’s RoundUp is facing litigation for being a possible human carcinogen [READ ABOUT IT MORE HERE].

Normal, non-GMOs exposed to dicamba have been affected drastically as well. Michael Kemp, a Missouri farmer, stated that the leaves on his regular soybeans have curled, which is known as cupping. He is unsure as to the extent of the damage this will have on his harvest. Other farmers state that even the trees on their property have changed as a result of being exposed to dicamba, with leaves so deformed that they cannot tell the difference between different species.

Farmers face a catch-22 if they wish to not grow genetically modified crops: While they do not want to buy non-GMO seeds, their crops may be damaged or killed by neighbors using pesticides. They feel like they have to purchase dicamba, regardless of whether they actually want to grow it. Additionally, the crop can now be sprayed later in the year when the weather is more humid. The pesticide is then susceptible to “volatility”, in which it turns into a gaseous form and drifts onto other properties. State and local officials, including the EPA, are not sure of the impact this might have on outside crops, but Kevin Bradley, a professor of agriculture at the University of Missouri, suspects that at 3 million acres have been affected.

Arkansas and Missouri both temporarily banned the sale of the seeds over the summer because of the unknown consequences it could have on farmers and the environment. Monsanto responded to the Arkansas ban specifically, stating that 99% of customers are satisfied with the product, and most issues that arise from spraying the crops can be fixed with proper education and oversight. Local farmers saw this rationale as a way to defect liability from the manufacturer onto the users.

Tensions are very high within the agriculture community. A man was even shot and killed because he disagreed with a farmhand over dicamba drift. As the lawsuit persists, hopefully new regulations will make it so those who do not wish to grow dicamba are not subject to its effects.

Read more about the lawsuit and dicamba in the New York Times article [HERE]

A number of cases over the past decade regarding the Ford F150, F250, and F350 forces potential and current customers to ask themselves a serious question: Can my truck withstand the force of a rollover accident? Many may assume when they buy their truck that it can, due to aggressive marketing campaigns by Ford, but it is becoming increasingly apparent that they, in fact, may not.

A prime example of this lack of transparency occurred when a college student in Texas rolled his 2002 Ford F150 into a ditch in an attempt to avoid another driver that had abruptly pulled from a driveway into the student’s path. The roof collapsed onto the boy’s head, pinning his chin to his chest and leaving him unable to breathe properly. He was deprived of oxygen for several minutes before emergency medical personnel could assist him. He slipped into a coma shortly after being transported to the hospital. He died a week later.

In another tragic example, a border patrol agent named Luis Pena was driving his Ford F250 to a narcotics incident. The truck flipped and the roof collapsed, causing him major spinal injuries and rendering him a quadriplegic. Court documents express that Ford did not conduct “real world” safety testing on the subject’s model of the truck, including drop tests and dynamic rollover tests.

In general, trucks are more prone to rolling over because their center of gravity is not as low as other vehicles on the road. External entities have put pressure on Ford and other vehicle manufacturers to cut weight from automotive designs. This effort to make them lighter will make the trucks more fuel efficient and attract potential customers. Manufactures have taken off some of this weight by hollowing out the pillars that connect the roof to the rest of the truck. This, of course, makes the top more likely to be crushed in the event of a rollover, and also makes front airbags useless in the event of such an accident.

When buying a truck or car, check to make sure that it is equipped with side airbags, cushioned seats and headrests, and has a functional electronic stability control (ESC) sensor. This sensor helps to adjust braking on certain wheels, which is especially helpful in the event of a tire blowout. They are standard in most new cars.

There are 220,000 rollover crashes in the United States every year. Many are fatal.

Timing is a factor in rollover litigations. Parts of the trucks must be preserved for forensic analysis.

See more here.

 

In a warning letter sent to Pfizer Inc., the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) threatened potential legal action over their negligent manufacturing of the emergency allergy treatment, EpiPen. The letter was drafted due to violations of “good manufacturing practices” at Pfizer manufacturing plants in Missouri between February and March of 2017. However, there are many more underlying issues, according to the letter. Pfizer subsidiary, Meridian, had been ignoring complaints about the functionality of the device. Their inaction had led to a number of serious injuries and deaths, although the exact number was not specified.

The pens’ distributor, Mylan, is the company that came under fire recently for unnecessarily hiking the price of the EpiPen six-fold.

The FDA’s initial interest in Pfizer was peaked in early 2016. Meridian found that a crucial component of the EpiPen, the portion that delivers the antihistamine, was defective. In some cases, the drug would leak out of the pen, rendering it useless. Other times, the drug simply would not inject properly or at all. The company continued to manufacture the same, flawed product while they were investigating the issue. They would later have to recall 260,000 EpiPens in the March of 2017 after being pressured to do so by the FDA.

Not surprisingly, both Meridian and the FDA received complaints during the period of this investigation concerning the drug not administering properly. Meridian dismissed these because they felt they were infrequent and, therefore, did not require attention. Pfizer also stated that “…it’s not unusual to receive product complaints, especially when the product is frequently administered by non-medically trained individuals”.

Between 2014 and 2017, the company received 171 complaints of improper injection, but they investigated “very few” of the claims and disassembled just as many potentially-broken product samples. Meridian did not offer an explanation for this inaction.

The letter was sent to Pfizer on September 5th. They must have a plan to address safety risks fifteen days from when the letter was sent. Not doing so could lead to legal action and other adverse consequences.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a recall for nearly 500,000 pacemakers manufactured by St. Jude Medical (SJM), a subsidiary of Abbott. Pacemakers are implanted in one’s chest to control strange heart rhythms. In an effort to avoid superfluous surgeries, once the pacemaker is implanted, it is controlled through a radio frequency. However, Abbott has discovered that the frequency can be accessed with commercial equipment. Hackers who are within 50 feet can tamper with the device, and they have the potential to drain the battery or accelerate the patient’s heartbeat, which could kill.

The obvious question arises: Why would someone take the time to hack someone else’s pacemaker? While this seems like a rather obscure reason to recall half-a-million medical devices, these individuals are prone to the new phenomenon, ransomware. In this scenario, one’s pacemaker is hacked. The hacker threatens to alter the patient’s heartbeat unless they pay a large amount of money.

Most medical professionals and Abbott have downplayed this threat; too many pieces must fall into place, such as location and motive, for any damage to be done. Matthew Green, an assistant professor of computer science at John Hopkins University, disagrees. He believes that extortion attacks on both patients and manufacturers are prevalent, and that they must be addressed. This threat is growing every day.

A possible solution, professionals suggest, would be to password protect the radio frequencies. This may seem like a good idea upon first inspection, but if the patients were to go to the hospital for a pacemaker-related medical emergency, the physicians there would have to spend extra time getting access to the device. This process would waste crucial time that could be spent helping the patient. If they cannot communicate the password to their doctor, the extra time could prove lethal.

Pacemakers cannot be simply removed due to the risk of complications. Because of this, Abbott has developed a new firmware update that attempts to heighten security. In an unlikely event, the update may cause the pacemaker to fail. Patients must be in a hospital to receive the update, and they are encouraged to meet with their cardiologist to weigh the risks of installing the update versus cyberattacks.

The issue in Abbott’s design was originally discovered by MedSec, a cybersecurity firm that specializes in finding flaws in medical equipment and publically disclosing them. This is not the first defect they have found in SJM’s pacemakers. In 2016, they disclosed the information to an investment firm, Muddy Waters Capital, who then proceeded to short the stock, in an effort to make a profit when the news became public. MedSec apparently did this to put financial pressure on SMJ and Abbott to make the changes quickly.

Six different varieties of pacemakers are prone to hacking. Read Abbott’s open letter to doctors regarding the issue [HERE] for more information.

In a recent statement, Weyerhaeuser Timber said it would recollect all TJI-joists that were manufactured after December 1st, 2016.

  • TJI is Weyerhaeuser’s branded joist.
  • Joists are a type of lumber that is supposed to resist warping and allow for faster installation. They are used in most new homes, specifically in basements.

These products were covered with a new formula of Weyerhaeuser-brand Flak Jacket fire-resistant coating, which contains a “formaldehyde-based resin”. Having such a coating is supposed to help bring the houses up to federal and state fire regulations. This particular coating causes the houses’ basements to smell like pickles, according to Customer Reports.

This defect has affected roughly 2,200 homes, but most of these are not yet habited. Weyerhaeuser estimates that collecting the unused product and replacing those that have already been implemented will cost $50-60 million. In a press release, the company states that “[it] is working proactively with its customers to address this situation and will cover the cost to either remediate or replace affected joists.”

Weyerhaeuser collected approximately $9 million by selling Flak Jacket products in 2016. The company made a net profit of $6.4 billion during the same year.

Expenses and remediation regarding the defective products were set-aside for the second quarter of 2017.

Weyerhaeuser has been in the legal spotlight recently for illegally cutting retiree benefits. Read about it via Bloomberg News [HERE].

If Weyerhaeuser products were purchased for your home and you have noticed a pickle-like odor, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact the Ochs Law Firm today for a consultation.

A lawsuit filed in the Superior Court of California in Los Angeles County last week resulted in a verdict against Nissan of America and its brake manufacturer, Continental Auto Systems, for $25 million for faulty brakes. Plaintiffs claimed that Nissan and Continental knew of the issues and did not let customers know or issue a recall, in order to avoid bad press. Because of this, Plaintiff Solomon Mathenge slammed into a minivan in his 2004 Nissan Infiniti QX56, killing a mother and her two daughters.

The lawsuit alleged that the brakes failed when the delta stroke sensor stopped working in the vehicle due to a software error. Attorneys argued that Nissan knew of this fault as early as 2003 but made no effort to correct it or disclose it. They further argued that the same software failure can be seen in their Titan and Armada models, too. The public was first alerted to this deadly blunder in the class-action case Banks v. Nissan, where Defendants were ordered to pay $800 to each buyer of the aforementioned models. Mathenge did not know of this payout, and by association, the sensor failure, because he bought his car used in 2012.

Mathenge was originally the target of the lawsuit. He was driving with a suspended license at the time, and his ability to drive was brought into question due to the fact he was 74-years-old. Police charged him with vehicular manslaughter at the crash scene. Hilario Cruz, the father of the daughters involved in the crash, and Araceli Mendez, Cruz’s surviving child, charged Mathenge with a wrongful death lawsuit. However, they dismissed the charges against him when it was revealed that his car was affected by the same software error as in the class-action suit above. Mathenge, who was injured himself, joined Cruz and Mendez in their lawsuit against Nissan. The judge found that, although Mathenge was negligent in his driving practices, Nissan and Continental were completely responsible for his accident.

Due to the minimal public information available for this potentially deadly defect, many purchases of these vehicles to this day may have no idea of the danger.

For more information, read the complaint [HERE].

Abbvie Pharmaceuticals was ordered to pay out $150 million by a federal court in Illinois for misrepresenting their drug, AndroGel. The medication is meant to treat low testosterone (Low-T) in middle age and older men.

The jury found that Abbvie created a false narrative around the condition, going as far as essentially making it up, in order to profit off of the ignorance of their customers. However, the company was not found guilty of causing adverse effects, like the heart attack the plaintiff had while taking to drug. They verdict was made up of only punitive damages and not compensatory damages.

AndroGel and other Low-T drugs can be taken in many forms, including:

  • Gel (as the name would imply)
  • Injection
  • Pellets
  • Patches

AndroGel is only approved for treating hypogonadism, which is condition that causes the body to produce lower-than-normal levels of testosterone. Over the years, it has made Low-T synonymous with aging, meaning any man can potentially take these drugs. In this sense, the condition being treated is made up in most situations.

Abbvie has done this in several ways. One way is simply having doctors not check the patient for hypogonadism; they may not even be aware of the requirement. Hypogonadism can be found through a routine blood test. ¼ of all AndroGel users never had the test done, and ½ of those taking the drug were not diagnosed with it in the first place.

Another example would be Abbvie’s website, which contains a self-diagnosis test with overly broad questions, like “Are you tired?” or “Are you grumpy?” These questions could apply to nearly everyone. Yet, the website will suggest that the test taker should pursue testosterone treatment. This greatly expands their customer base.

Although the recent verdict did not find Abbvie guilty of causing the man’s heart attack, they still have a long, unsound relationship with the FDA. AndroGel was found to increase the chance of heart attack or stroke in their otherwise healthy patients, and they found it doubled the chance in those taking the drug with a heart condition.

These findings are even more startling, given the fact that the effects were studied only three months into therapy. As a result, the FDA ordered Abbvie to place warnings for heart attack and stroke on their label in March, 2015. The manufacturer was urged to put a warning for an increased risk of blood clots after the correlation was found in a study, too.

The recent verdict was issued for what is known as a bellwether trial. This is a trial used to assess the likelihood of the verdict for the class action suit and gives the two sides the option to settle. There are currently 6,000 plaintiffs in the class action consolidated in Chicago. Abbvie will likely appeal the decision, but the verdict should give them a bleak outlook for minimizing exposure in future cases.

In order to control their blood sugar levels, some diabetics use Invokana, the better-known name of the chemical canagliflozin. It is a sodium-glucose cotransporter-2. The drug functions as a cell function inhibitor. To lower the body’s blood sugar levels, Invokana helps the kidneys to reabsorb glucose in the blood stream. It is removed from the body as urine. Although this might sound harmless, Invokana has been linked to many serious health problems. These include:

  • Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)
  • Renal issues, such as kidney failure and kidney stones
  • Ketoacidosis (acidification of the blood stream)
  • Brittle bones
  • Amputation due to lack of blood flow
  • Heart attack
  • Death

Jansen Health, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, manufactures Invokana, which

really shouldn’t come as any surprise given the substantial continuing legal troubles Johnson & Johnson have found themselves in over the past 18 months.  See here.

Doctors and health officials alike has disavowed Invokana. Dr. Sydney Wolfe testified before Congress about the dangers of Invokana and how its clinical trials were misrepresented in order to gain FDA approval in early 2013. He is the cofounder of the Public Citizen advocacy and lobbying group. The advocates renounced the drug further, calling for it to be pulled from the market in 2015. (Read more about it HERE.) Public Citizen has over 350,000 members nationwide and has successfully gotten additional warnings on drugs or had them pulled from the market due to dangerous side effects.

The FDA and Invokana have a long history together. Since being approved, the FDA has added the following adverse effects to the drug’s label:

  • May 2015: Invokana must warn patients about the increased risk of ketoacidosis on their label. Type 2 diabetics are twice as likely to develop this. It was also given a “black box” label, the most serious warning the FDA can place on a product because of newfound data showing that Invokana increased the risk of limb amputation.
  • September 2015: Invokana must warn patients about the increased risk of bone weakening on their label.
  • December 2015: Invokana must warn patients about the increased risk of UTIs and diabetic ketoacidosis on their label.
  • June 2016: Invokana must warn patients about the increased risk of renal problems, such as kidney stones, on their label.

One can only ask themselves, what’s the next warning on the horizon with this drug?

We have blogged before on the storm that is brewing around Monsanto’s weed-killer Roundup and the allegations that the herbicide causes cancer such as lymphoma.  See more here.

The lawsuits have gathered steam as Monsanto suffered yet another blow to its public relations after the appellate verdict of Monsanto Company v. California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment. The chemical giant lost to the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), a branch of the state’s Environmental Protection Agency. They declared that Roundup, a commonly used herbicide, is carcinogenic. Therefore, under the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act (Prop 65), Monsanto must label the product as such. It will join 800 other chemicals and merchandises.

This whole fiasco started when the OEHHA publically announced that glyphosate, the main active ingredient in Roundup, caused birth defects, reproductive problems, and various types of cancer. They would add Roundup to an existing list of potentially dangerous chemicals mandated by Prop 65.

Monsanto quickly defended itself by suing the agency that supposedly slandered it. They contended that Roundup was true to its slogan: “Safer than Table Salt”. However, this zealous assessment contradicted studies done by the State of California and the World Health Organization, both of whom claim that glyphosate is dangerous.

Monsanto’s defense attorneys stated their client was innocent based on two distinct rationales:

  1. Prop 65 is unconstitutional by nature. It cedes power to an unelected body that is not watched over by the state or the national government.
  2. When this justification failed, Monsanto claimed that Proposition 65 violated their First Amendment right to free speech by requiring them to use labels that would harm their sales and reputation.

Notice how neither of these defenses claim that Roundup does not cause cancer.

Judge Kapetan of the California Court of Appeals stated in her ruling that Prop 65 and the OEHHA were created by elected legislators and was, therefore, constitutional. (Read her whole ruling HERE.)

Although Monsanto will be forced to label Roundup, there are still many issues to be addressed by legislators, the courts, and Monsanto itself. While Roundup might see a decline in usage, herbicides without glyphosate have seen greater usage due to the rise of glyphosate-resistant crops. Many of those are potentially harmful, too. Those who have gotten ill from their exposure to Roundup will need to be properly compensated. Monsanto currently has hundreds of poisoning lawsuits against it pending in courts around the country.

 

chest of drawersEvery Mother and Father’s worst nightmare:  Junior trying to climb up his chest of drawers only to have it tip on him and crush him.  The risk is real and it still happens.

Parents cannot be more mindful when purchasing a chest of drawers for their infants room.  Flat out stay away from those that require “affixing” them to the wall.  Purchase the wide based models that pose no risk, even if an adult were to try and tip it over.

South Shore announced earlier today they were recalling their chest of drawers because of a fall-risk hazard they posed.  The South Shore chest of drawers weighs a whopping 88 pounds; far too much for a toddler to likely survive in a tip over.

See the recall notice here.

The recall advises that the chests are “unstable if not anchored to a wall” and that “the chests do not comply with the performance requirements of the U.S. voluntary industry standard.”

The law requires company’s to protect consumers against foreseeable harms and the risk of a tip over is all too foreseeable.

If you’re a parent of a child, be sure to double check the chests in your child’s room.  You can never be too safe.