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].

The US has been hit very hard by the recent opioid crisis. Deaths from opioid-related overdose have quadrupled since 2003, with 33,000 deaths in the nation last year alone. But nowhere in the US has been affected as drastically as Indian Country. To paint a picture, Native American high school students abuse OxyContin at twice the national average. The Cherokee Nation, which, is represented by 14 counties in northeastern Oklahoma, is taking a stand by filling a lawsuit against the US’s top pharmaceutical distributors, following in the footsteps of Ohio and Mississippi, among other states (read about it here). There have been 350 overdose-related deaths in these Oklahoma counties between 2003 and 2015. Cherokee officials knew it was time to take action.

The numbers regarding opioid prevalence in the Cherokee Nation speak for themselves:

  • 845,000,000 million milligrams worth of drugs were distributed to the 14 counties in 2015
  • This means that every opioid addict in the area had roughly 360 to 720 pills
  • 6 percent of American Indian 12th graders have tried heroin, twice the national average

Attorneys representing the Cherokee Nation hope that their lawsuit accomplishes two objectives. Number one, it will compensate those affected by the opioid crisis, as much as a lawsuit can. Financial penalties from these companies will go toward law enforcement costs and reimbursing the child welfare service, which has had to cope with the influx of addicted babies. The money currently being spent by the state could be going towards other families without these issues.

Secondly, the Cherokee Nation’s attorneys hope that the lawsuit will change the behavior of the pharmaceutical distributors named as defendants. These include:

  • Walmart
  • CVS Pharmacies
  • Walgreens

As well as the nation’s three largest distributors:

  • AmerisourceBergen
  • McKesson
  • Cardinal Health

Plaintiffs allege that the named defendants did not take the necessary steps to stop their drugs from getting into the hands of the black market. For example, they turned a blind eye to doctor shopping and filling multiple opioid prescriptions at once, both of which violate the Controlled Substances Act. Distributors should, under the act, file any suspicious activities, such as these, with the federal government. The Cherokee Nation’s attorneys state that the crisis boils down to the simple problem of market oversaturation. There are more drugs, ones that should be rare and difficult to get in the first place, in the market than there should be. They have ignored known issues in their supply chain to get to this point.

Defendants, however, contest that they have done nothing wrong. As Courtney Tobin, a spokesperson for Cardinal Health, puts it:

Cardinal Health is confident that the facts and the law are on our side, and we intend to vigorously defend ourselves,” Tobin wrote. “We believe these lawsuits do not advance the hard work needed to solve the opioid abuse crisis – an epidemic driven by addiction, demand and the diversion of medications for illegitimate use.

All of the defendants who could be reached for comment by The Rolling Stone felt similarly about the case.

The suit was filed in tribal court on April 20th, 2017. While the defense will likely ask the judge to move jurisdiction to a federal court, a tribal court will allow plaintiffs to get access to corporate records sooner.

Like the rest of the country, Wyoming’s Indian population has been hit hard by the opioid epidemic. State officials are sensitive to the issue and have been working to address it. For example, in Fremont County, drop boxes for unneeded drugs can now be found at clinics and city halls. These have been added to combat the spike in opioid overdoses over the last several years and decades.

Fremont County has a large Native American population at 20% and is home to the Wind River Reservation. Learn move about the drop boxes and other initiatives [HERE].

Regardless of the trials outcome, we at the Ochs Law Firm hope for relief and will join the fight for all of those affected by the epidemic in the Cherokee Nation and Wyoming.

Hernias are caused by a combination of pressure and weak abdominal tissue or muscle. When the pressure is applied, organs break through the weakened flesh, causing pain and, at times, the trademark hernia bump. This injury is fairly common, with up to 100,000 cases nationally each year. A well-known treatment for hernias is a mesh implant, situated during surgery, which will keep the organ in place and from again bursting the fragile tissue.

 

There are four types of hernia meshes:

 

  1. Absorbable mesh
    • A mesh that will lose its strength over time and dissolve into the body. Strong tissue should regrow in the affected area and hold the organ in place.

 

  1. Non-absorbable mesh
    • These are not meant to degrade within the body (although this is not always the case). They are a permanent solution to fixing the hernia, rather than letting tissue reinforce the organ.

 

  1. Composite mesh
    • A mesh coated with fatty acids or collagen so as to not make direct contact with the organ in question. These are the most expensive and have the highest complication rate.

 

  1. Animal-derived mesh
    • This is a mesh made from either pig or cow skin that has been sterilized. They are absorbable.

 

As simple as this concept itself is, fundamental design flaws in these meshes have been linked to higher, more severe infections and bowel erosion.

 

Ethicon, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, has recently come under public scrutiny for their synthetic hernia weave, Physiomesh, although it is not the only mesh manufacturer with questionable mesh products. Most synthetic meshes (included but not limited to Physiomesh) are made from the cheap plastic polypropylene. It contracts and degrades once it is in the body for an extended period of time. For these reasons, the plastic’s producers have suggested it not be used for permanent body implants. Most, if not all, mesh manufactures have ignored their warning.

 

Hernia meshes can be implanted in three different ways:

 

  1. Overlay
  • The mesh is placed between the skin and abdomen.
  1. Inlay
  • The mesh is placed within the abdomen itself.
  1. Underlay
  • The mesh is placed between the abdomen and the thin lining that covered the abdominal organs, or peritoneum. Most problems arise when this method is used.

 

Failure to properly place the mesh during implantation has lead to numerous complications, too. Bowel erosion typically occurs when polypropylene makes contact with the bowel itself.

 

To sway public opinion in their favor, mesh constructors have recently started to cover meshes with a thin coating of fatty acids or collagens (composite mesh). These, however, absorb into the body in just a few years, rendering the coating useless.

 

What’s more, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has approved none of these coatings because they do not need to; they would only have to do so if the mesh was made by a different variety of plastic. Producers can use the same, cheap plastic and mark up their new products, claiming that they are “improved”. Composite meshes cost up to 20 times higher than the other varieties.

 

Many attorneys are afraid to take hernia mesh cases, on account of research articles that dispute many of the aforementioned claims. However, there are several issues with these exposés that damage their credibility. The mesh manufacturers themselves have funded many of the recent studies. This creates an obvious conflict of interest. Furthermore, the studies do not take place over a long enough period of time. Many complications occur ten to fifteen years after the surgery.

 

Ethicon withdrew some of their mesh products from the market in 2016. Although there has yet to be an official FDA recall, even they are skeptical as to the reliability of these products.

 

Patients are becoming more aware of their cheap mesh, and the fact that the problems they are having are not from the surgery, but from the mesh.  Hernia mesh lawsuits have been filed across the country and we expect more to follow.

Wearables, the more frequently seen watch-like devices that now nearly 1 in 6 adults are wearing and fast becoming a hit across the United States.

The wearable industry hit $2 billion in 2015, is expected to hit $3 billion in 2017 and $4 billion in 2018.

Wearables archive, store and analyze billions of pieces of data and depending on the type of wearable, such data can include altitude, speed, location and even text messages and emails.

Imagine the treasure trove of information such wearables can provide in litigation?

Vehicle crash?  No sign of texting or on the phone, but what about the notification that came through the wearable?  How about the speed of the vehicle?  Check the altitude of the wearable against the testimony of the driver and see if he/she is telling the truth?  The scenarios are many.

And these wearables continue to expand in the data collection.  Many already capture heart rate.  Blood pressure and sugar levels are no doubt to follow.

These small devices will often be overlooked by lawyers, but those who follow the technology wave, will also follow the treasure trove of data.

 

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.

Fiat-ChryslerMy firm filed the first and only class action in Wyoming on behalf of Wyomignites who were duped into purchasing the Volkswagen vehicles that were later discovered to be outfitted with diesel emission devices that operated to circumvent smog testing.  To Volkswagen’s credit, they worked with teams of lawyers to come to a comprehensive settlement although litigation does continue on behalf of those that opted-out of the global settlement.

At the time Volkswagen appeared to be an isolated event with an isolated vehicle production company, but since such time allegations have surfaced that similar such “cheating” devices may have been installed in certain Fiat vehicles.

Fiat is owned by Chrysler.

The US Justice Department previously announced that they were initiating an investigation against Fiat for what they believed to be possible emissions-related scandals.

Less than thirty (30) days ago, Fiat announced that they would be modifying nearly 100,000 diesel vehicles in efforts to reach a settlement with the Department of Justice.

Remarkably this story has remained quiet for the most part, it will be the consumers who are left hung out to dry if further information is not otherwise disclosed as a result of these allegations.

Fiat could very well become the next public relations crisis.  At least they will have Volkswagen to consult with about same.

Punitive verdicts across the country against J&J
Punitive verdicts across the country against J&J

In a continued effort to bring to you updates in regards to what we have previously blogged could very well be a record-setting-year for Johnson & Johnson with respect to jury verdicts, we wanted to report the latest in our series.

This past week on May 26th, a Philadelphia jury awarded $2.1 million to a woman who suffered serious complications after having an Ethicon (Johnson & Johnson) Gynecare Prolift mesh device surgically inserted.

The verdict is the fourth such verdict in a row against Johnson & Johnson and its Ethicon division in a Pennsylvania transvaginal mesh lawsuit.

Prolift mesh was used to treat stress urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse suffered by the Plaintiff.  She asserted at trial that the mesh had eroded into her private areas resulting in permanent complications.  The jury deliberated for approximately nine hours before coming to a decision.

The verdict follows a $20 million, $12.5 million and $13.5 million decision in Pennsylvania against Johnson & Johnson and Ethicon, all related to transvaginal mesh.

Our blog will continue to update with additional J&J news, especially as we are closely watching the Xarelto trial that just began against Johnson & Johnson in Florida this past week.

cyberWhile technology continues to outpace the law, new and emerging legal issues will arise in an effort to keep up with the oft changing landscape that technology has created in today’s society; not the least of which will be cyber security and demand for protection against cyber hacks.

The law requires companies to protect against foreseeable harms.  The failure to ensure devices are safe leaves product companies exposed to tremendous liability.

So, the legal question is asked – in the face of a cyber security breach, who is responsible?

I read with great interest on Friday a fascinating post by a fellow lexblog blogger concerning St. Jude Medical Inc’s warning that their implantable cardiac devices were vulnerable to cyber attacks.  Read the post here.

Just imagine the legal consequences (and health consequences) of such an attack?

On a smaller scale, we are all well aware of the “credit card hacks” that have occurred (think Target not too long ago) and the litigation that followed against Target.  Thankfully, nobody died.  But can you imagine the risk with a cyber attack on a implantable medical device?  Driver-less car?  Commercial airplanes?

The opportunities for young millennials and others to develop technological infrastructure that prevents and protects from such dangers is enormous.

Today, a company that develops products within the zone of technology, cannot deny the dangers of cyber security and cyber threats.  As such, they must protect against such dangers in order to protect the consumer.

Many companies will not make such effort, and it will only become apparent once they are served with a lawsuit.

 

pancreatitis painThe Food and Drug Administration has issued a safety alert warning of the increased risk of pancreatitis in patients taking the irritable-bowel syndrome (IBS) drug Verbizi (eluxadoline).

Verbizi is most often prescribed for IBS with diarrhea in both men and women.  The drug is relatively new with FDA approval occurring in May 2015.

The FDA warned that the drug should not be taken by patients who do not have a gallbladder.  The FDA warning states that an FDA review found these patients have an increased risk of developing serious pancreatitis that could result in hospitalization or death. Pancreatitis may be caused by spasm of a certain digestive system muscle in the small intestine. As a result, the FDA advises that they are working with the Viberzi manufacturer, Allergan, to address the safety concerns.

The FDA advised Health care professionals to not prescribe Viberzi in patients who do not have a gallbladder and should consider alternative treatment options in these patients.

The FDA further advised that hospitalizations and deaths due to pancreatitis have been reported with Viberzi use in patients who do not have a gallbladder.

Pancreatitis is the inflammation of the pancreas.  The pancreas helps to regulate how the body processes sugar.

Mild cases of pancreatitis can resolve without medical intervention, however severe bouts of pancreatitis can be life-threatening.  Learn more about pancreatitis here.

See the full FDA alert here.