Archive for December, 2013

What Are “Specials” in Mississippi Personal Injury Cases?

Thursday, December 26th, 2013

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in an automobile accident, you are likely dealing with many different, yet challenging issues.  These typically range from your injuries and recovery, to whether your insurance will cover your medical expenses, to your future employment prospects (depending upon the nature of your injuries), and the necessity to file a lawsuit to recover damages to which you are entitled.  If you have talked to anyone who has ever been through a similar experience, or read anything about such matters on the web, you many have run across the term “specials” in the discussion of damages to which you might be entitled.

The law firm of Barrett Law PLLC has been representing individuals injured as a result of automobile accidents for decades.  We are, therefore, very familiar with what the term “specials” means and have written this short article to help you understand the concept.

Generally speaking, there are two major types of damages awarded in an automobile accident, both of which are forms of compensatory damages.  Compensatory damages are designed to compensate someone for actual losses, as opposed to punitive damages, which are designed to deter similar future conduct by both the defendant in question and other individuals or companies in society.  The two types of compensatory damages are general damages and special damages. Despite the use of the term, special damages are not really “special”.  That is, “specials” are standard damages awarded in personal injury lawsuits, including motor vehicle accident cases.

“Specials” include three main components:  medical expenses; property damage; and loss of earnings.  Given high deductibles, co-pays, out-of-network concerns, and the like, medical costs are soaring.  Medical bills can quickly amount to tens of thousands of dollars and can easily climb in excess of $1 million.  These costs are, quite simply, insurmountable for most individuals.  Luckily, your medical expenses are one key portion of “specials” that are recoverable.  Navigating the maze of dealing with insurance companies, both yours, including your health insurance and automobile insurance, and the other driver’s insurance in such matters is difficult.  You need an experienced attorney to help guide you through the process in order to maximize the amount of your medical expenses that you recover for.  The professionals at Barrett Law PLLC have been working for individuals injured in automobile accidents for decades, and we can help you understand the ins and outs of recovering for your medical expenses.

Undoubtedly, if you were involved in an automobile accident, your vehicle was damaged.  You are also entitled to recover these damages.  As with your medical expenses, dealing with the various insurance companies in order to maximize your recovery for damage to your vehicle can be difficult.  Again, having an experienced attorney represent you through this process is important.  Having an attorney in your corner allows you to focus on your personal recovery, while your attorney focuses on your financial recovery.

Finally, you are entitled to recover for lost wages.  This includes past and future lost wages.  Figuring out the amount of future lost wages that you may be entitled to is difficult and includes considerations of age, wage increases, and number of years of future work.  To maximize your ability to recover, you should retain an experienced attorney who understands when experts are necessary for determining these damages and who knows what experts to hire.

Barrett Law PLLC has been representing the rights of individuals injured in automobile accidents for decades, and will continue to do so for decades into the future.  If you or someone you love has been injured in an automobile, please contact our firm today.   We can be reached at (800) 707-9577 to schedule an initial, no-cost consultation.

Outrage Erupts Over Lack of Jail Time for Teen Driver Who Killed Four

Friday, December 20th, 2013

On June 15, 2013, the lives of several individuals in a town near Forth Worth, Texas, would be ripped apart forever.  On that night, sixteen year-old Ethan Couch and several of his friends had been drinking—heavily.  They had already stolen some beer from a local Wal-Mart.  After consuming the beer, the decided they needed even more.  So they decided to go for a drive in Couch’s pickup to get yet more alcohol.  At the time, Couch had already consumed a significant amount of alcohol—vodka and Everclear—and also had Valium in his system.  There were seven other teenagers in Couch’s pick-up truck.

Distracted and drunk, Couch turned onto Burleson-Retta Road, just outside Burleson, which is south of Fort Worth, Texas.  Couch, who was driving at approximately seventy miles per hour in a forty mile per hour zone, plowed into a group of people who were attending to a stranded motorist.  Couch’s pick-up struck another parked car, belonging to Brian Jennings and which also had two boys inside, which was then pushed into oncoming traffic.  Breanna Mitchell, 24, was killed instantly.  Mitchell was the driver of the stranded car.  Three other people were also killed.  Hollie Boyles, 52, and her daughter, Shelby Boyles, 21, were helping Mitchell with her stranded car, as was youth pastor Brian Jennings, 41.  The impact was so severe that the four were flung fifty to sixty yards away from the scene.

Two of the passengers in Couch’s truck, those that were riding in the flatbed portion of the pick-up, were critically injured.  One of the boys, Sergio Molina, spent several months in a coma.  He remains paralyzed and brain damaged, and he can communicate only by blinking his eyes.  A total of 11 people were injured.  Soliman Mohmand was seriously injured, suffering from broken bones and internal injuries.  Local authorities stated that it was the most horrific crash they had ever seen.

Three hours after the accident, Couch’s blood-alcohol content was a staggering 0.24, which is three times the legal limit in Texas.

Couch was charged with four counts of intoxication manslaughter and two counts of intoxication assault.  His defense was that he was suffering from “affluenza”—he was the product of a wealthy family with parents who never set appropriate boundaries for him.  He even had an expert in his corner—Dr. G. Dick Miller, a psychologist who blamed the accident on Couch’s parents.  Indeed, this was not the first time Couch had been cited for alcohol violations.  He had two prior possession of alcohol charges.

On December 11, 2013, Judge Jean Boyd sentenced Couch to ten years probation.  He was facing up to twenty years in prison for the accident.  Couch will not be released to his parents, but will be sent to a long-term treatment facility in California with a hefty price tag (borne by Couch’s parents) of reportedly $450,000 to $500,000 per year.  Couch’s defense attorney, Scott Brown, stated that nothing that Judge Boyd would have done could have lessened the suffering of the victims’ families.

But that is not what those victims’ families said.  Eric Boyles, who lost his wife and daughter in the accident, was outraged and stated that Couch has never had to face consequences for his actions. Marla Mitchell, Breanna Mitchell’s mother, said that Couch would face judgment from a “higher power.”

If you have been injured in a car accident as a result of someone else’s carelessness, or worse, the days, weeks, and months ahead will be an extremely trying time.  Dealing with recovering damages for injuries you have sustained is not something you should have to do alone.  Barrett Law PLLC, is here to help you. Let us put our experience to work for you.  Please contact us today at (800) 707-9577 to schedule an appointment.

Who Might Be Responsible for My Mississippi Personal Injuries?

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013

Several weeks ago, in Norwalk, Connecticut, a tractor-trailer flipped onto its side and skidded down Interstate 95 for approximately a quarter of a mile.  The truck was carrying scrap aluminum, which was scattered all over the interstate.  Traffic in all of the southbound lanes of Interstate 95 was shut down for four hours.  The driver of the truck, Harry Myers, was injured, but not critically.  Fortunately, no one else was hurt.

Authorities indicated that the hydraulic pump on the truck malfunctioned.  It started to raise up the back of the truck, much like a dump-truck operates.  In cases like this, and when individuals are unfortunately injured, our law firm receives many questions about the individuals or companies that might be responsible.  This article is a short summary of companies and individuals that are often found to be responsible for such accidents.  The list is not meant to be exclusive, but just to provide information about who might be liable for your injuries.

First and foremost, the actions of the driver of the truck in question should be examined.  Very often, driver error, inattention, or other behavior, such as alcohol use, will be a contributing factor to the accident.  Unfortunately, drivers may or may not be appropriately insured, and it is often important to look beyond the driver to be able to fully recover the damages to which you are entitled.

If the driver was driving the truck during working hours and for a work-related purpose, his or her employer could be liable for your injuries as well.  The legal term for the employer’s responsibility for its employer’s actions is respondeat superior.  There are exceptions for this liability, however.  In order to ensure that an employer or insurance company does not claim these exceptions without an appropriate basis for doing so, it is important for you to retain an attorney experienced in these types of lawsuits.  Defendants and their insurance companies will do everything they can to minimize payments to injured individuals.  Because of this, you need someone in your corner doing everything they can to maximize the recover you receive.

The truck manufacturer and component part manufacturer may also be liable for your injuries.  For example, in the case briefly discussed above, the manufacturer of the hydraulic pump that apparently caused the accident may be responsible.  Depending upon the facts of the accident, the truck manufacturer itself might be responsible.  For example, was the truck improperly assembled?  With the sophistication of today’s trucks, it can be difficult to determine what component parts may have malfunctioned, and how, as well as how that contributed to the accident.  Because of this, it is likely that an accident reconstruction expert will need to be retained.  Retaining experts is expensive, and it can be very difficult to obtain the right expert.

Also potentially liable for a trucking accident are companies who own and/or serviced the truck in question.  This may or may not be the same company as the driver’s employer.  Trucks are subject to routine maintenance and inspection requirements under Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulations.  Reports are to be kept of such inspections.  In an accident in which inadequate maintenance is suspected as the cause or a contributing cause, it is vital to obtain maintenance records.

For 75 years, Barrett Law PLLC has been representing individuals injured in car and truck accidents located in Mississippi and throughout the Southeast.  If you have any questions, or sustained injuries in a truck-related accident, please contact us at (800) 707-9577 to set up a no-cost and completely confidential consultation.

Five Former National Football League Players Sue Team Over Injuries

Monday, December 16th, 2013

Despite American’s love, and sometimes even obsession, with football, the game is not without its price—most notably to those who have played the game at the collegiate or professional level. A recent lawsuit filed by five former National Football League (NFL) players against the team that they played for—the Kansas City Chief—highlights this fact. The NFL is not a named defendant. The players were on the team for various years from 1987 through 1993. The lawsuit claims that the team hid and lied about the risks of head injuries to its players. The lawsuit was filed by Leonard Griffin, Kevin Porter, Chris Martin, Joe Phillips, and Alexander Louis Cooper. All of the five men were defensive players. The lawsuit seeks actual and punitive damages. Claims for damages arise out of latent brain injuries sustained as a result of repeated concussions.

The players were on the team at a time when the NFL had no collective bargaining agreement in place. Since that time, collective bargaining agreements have been in place, and those agreements would require arbitration of such claims under federal labor laws. Furthermore, the case is also able to proceed through standard judicial review procedures because the injuries are exempted from the application of Missouri’s workers compensation laws under a unique exception that, unless extended, will expire at the end of 2013. This exception provides that injuries arising out an accident, or a specific event during a single work shifty injury, are not subject to workers’ compensation laws.

The lawsuit, filed in Jackson County, Missouri, alleges that each of the five men have suffered chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) due to multiple concussive and sub-concussive injuries. The allegations include that the Kansas City Chiefs marginalized the effects of concussions; that the team did know or, at least should have known, that post-concussion syndrome and cognitive impairment occurs in football players; that the team did know, or at least should have known, that repetitive head trauma can lead to permanent neurological impairments, including CTE; and that the team did know, or at least should have known, that CTE is present in athletes with a history of repetitive head trauma, including football players and boxers, but that the symptoms of the disease may not appear for years or decades after the athlete ceases his sport.

The Complaint further alleges that the team did know or, at a minimum, should have known that the frequency of occurrence of brain trauma is correlated to the degree of neurological impairment. The football community, in 1937, acknowledged the need to remove players after suffering from a concussion. The definitive link between football head injuries and CTE was not established until 2002 due to the Kansas City Chiefs’, and others’, efforts to conceal the link, the Complaint asserts. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health recently issued a warning letter to certain former NFL players (those whose careers spanned more than five seasons) that their risk of death from neurologic disease was three times greater than other players. Despite the overwhelming evidence of a link between repetitive head injuries and neurological injuries, the Kansas City Chiefs never warned the Plaintiffs of the risk. According to the Complaint, the Kansas City Chiefs had a duty to warn its players of the risks, and the team’s failure to do so was both negligent and fraudulent. The Complaint seeks an unspecified amount of damages.

Barrett Law PLLC has significant experience representing individuals injured as a result of workplace conditions. If you or a family member has suffered a workplace related injury, please contact our office today at (800) 707-9577 to schedule an initial, no-cost consultation to discuss your rights.

Can I Obtain Punitive Damages for the Injuries I Received In a Mississippi Car Accident?

Friday, December 13th, 2013

Many individuals are injured in automobile or trucking accidents everyday.  Many of these injuries are relatively minor and also, have common causes—minor rear-end accidents, minor side-swipe collisions, and other similar accidents.  Unfortunately, sometimes injuries are not minor.  In fact, they often result in death or catastrophic injuries to its victims.  And sometimes the accident results not from a minor fender bender but from a horrific collision involving gross negligence, recklessness, and/or criminal wrongdoing.  In these types of accidents, such as the accident caused by Ethan Couch, which is discussed in another one of our blogs, our firm often gets inquiries about whether punitive damages are recoverable.

Punitive damages, unlike all other forms of damages that are designed to compensate an individual for his or her actual past and future losses, are designed to do one thing—deter future conduct by the defendant and others.  They, in effect, are a punishment.  Because punitive damages are not intended to compensate the plaintiff, who will nevertheless receive all or a majority of the damages, punitive damages are rather difficult to obtain.  The facts at hand have to rise to the level of something so egregious as to be essentially shocking or intentional.  The one exception is in regard to cases against an insurance company wherein it is alleged that the insurance company refused to settle/pay out on a particular matter in bad faith.

Punitive damages are largely governed by state common law, but the United States Supreme Court has issued decisions finding that punitive damages in a ratio of four to one implicates constitutional concerns.  However, the United States Supreme Court has also found exceptions to this; accordingly, there are no absolute or hard-and-fast rules.  The general proposition, however, is that the greater the amount of punitive damages, the greater the likelihood they will be subject to challenge.  The United States Supreme Court has ruled that the damages awarded be reasonable as determined by the degree of reprehensibility of the defendant’s actions.

Cases involving automobile accidents that may be one in which punitive damages could be sought include:

  • Manslaughter;
  • Reckless driving;
  • Fleeing the scene of an accident;
  • Intoxication; and
  • Criminal behavior while operating a motor vehicle.

Punitive damages will very likely not be covered by an insurance policy.  Therefore, determining whether to pursue them should include a consideration of the likelihood that the defendant they are imposed upon has the means to satisfy the judgment.  Punitive damages are more typically sought against companies such as employers, truck manufacturers, component part manufacturers, and the like.  However, they certain can and should be sought against individuals in appropriate circumstances.

If you or a loved one has been involved in a car or trucking accident, it is important to retain an attorney experienced automobile accident lawsuits.  The nuances of litigating automobile accident lawsuits can be difficult to navigate for an attorney inexperienced in such matters.  Matters of timing, obtaining medical records, knowing who to file suit against, obtaining records, retaining experts, and similar issues can easily lead to oversight and mistakes. You also need an attorney who understands how to fight for your rights.  We know how to do so and having been doing so for decades.  If you or a loved one has been injured or killed in an automobile accident, please contact Barrett Law PLLC at (800) 707-9577 to schedule your initial consultation.

Mississippi Considering Texting While Driving Bans

Wednesday, December 11th, 2013

Recently, Illinois became yet another state to entirely ban the use of handheld devices while driving.  On August 16, 2013, the governor of Illinois, Pat Quinn, signed legislation that prohibits the use of any handheld device while operating a motor vehicle on any Illinois roadway.  The law becomes effective January 1, 2014.  Illinois previously had significant restrictions on the use of hand-held devices while operating a motor vehicle.  Illinois will become the twelfth state to implement such a ban.  Other states with the ban include California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Washington, and West Virginia, as well as the District of Columbia.

Nationally, such restrictions are a growing trend.  Most states have at least some restrictions on the use of handheld devices while operating a motor vehicle.  All but nine states have banned text messaging while driving, as has the District of Columbia.  Young drivers’ use of hand-held devices is limited in thirty-seven states. Arizona, Montana, and South Carolina are the only three states that have no restrictions whatsoever on the use of hand-held devices, whether talking or texting, while driving.

Additionally, federal law bans the use of hand-held devices by commercial drivers and bus drivers.  The Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration (FMCSA) creates these restrictions.  It also provides for fines and penalties against drivers caught violating the restrictions.  It is well-established that the use of hand-held devices while driving increases the risk of motor vehicle accidents.  One study done for FMCSA indicated that the risk of crashes or traffic violations is more than 23 times higher for drivers text while driving.

Mississippi has laws in place that limit texting while driving.  Under current Mississippi law, drivers with a learners permit are prohibited from texting while driving.  The use of hand-held devices is also banned for bus drivers if minor children are on board the bus.  No other limitations or restrictions exist regarding the use of hand-held devices while driving.  However, the Mississippi Senate Transportation Committee recently held hearings regarding implementing additional restrictions in the 2014 Senate session.

Senator Sally Doty seems to be in support of additional restrictions, stating that texting while driving endangers the lives of both the individual engaging in the action as well as others on the road, but did concede that restrictions can be difficult to enforce.  Senator Hob Bryan expressed concern that general restrictions do not take into consideration factors such as the remoteness of the roadway being travelled.  Despite these conflicting interests, many critics of Mississippi’s lack of restrictions have recently begun more strongly voicing their concerns.  Many newspaper articles have been written over the last several years strongly advocating for increased restrictions in Mississippi.

Nationally, there has also been a trend in lawsuits being brought involving the use of hand-held devices while driving, alleging that drivers were texting while driving and therefore negligent in causing accidents.  Even more recently, assertions of negligence have been brought against individuals texting a driver because that individual knew the driver was operating a motor vehicle at the time.  To date, these lawsuits have been unsuccessful.

Barrett Law, PLLC has been representing the rights of individuals injured in motor vehicle accidents in Mississippi for decades.  If you or someone you love has been injured in a motor vehicle accident, please contact us today to discuss your rights.  We can be reached at (800) 707-9577.

Former University of Kansas Lab Director, Professor File Separate Whistleblower Lawsuits

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013

On November 2013, David S. Moore brought a lawsuit against his former employer, University of Kansas, alleging that it had retaliated against him for voicing his complaints about the University’s use of grant funds.  Moore was a laboratory director at the Microscopy and Analytical Imaging Laboratory in Lawrence, Kansas.  He was terminated by the University in October 2013.  Moore’s lawsuit was brought under the Kansas Whistleblower Act.

The Kansas Whistleblower Act bars supervisors and appointing authorities from prohibiting state employees from discussing operations of a state agency or other matters of public concern.  The Kansas Whistleblower Act also bars supervisors and appointing authorities from prohibiting state employees from reporting violations of federal or state law or requiring employees provide notice before making any such report.  The Kansas Whistleblower Act provides for review of a disciplinary actions by the Civil Service Board for employees classified as permanent under the Kansas Civil Service Act, which may subsequently appealed for judicial review.  Employees who are unclassified under the Kansas Civil Service Act have an immediate right to judicial review of disciplinary actions.  The Kansas Whistleblower Act defines disciplinary actions to include termination, demotion, transfer, transfer, reassignment, suspension or reprimand.

Moore’s lawsuit comes just weeks after another, though current, employee of the University filed a similar lawsuit.  Curtis Klaassen filed suit on October 31, 2013, alleging that he was placed on administrative leave from his position at the University for complaining about the misuse of federal grant funds by the University.  The Complaint filed by Klaassen also alleges that the University fired many of his post-graduate research assistants and killed genetically-modified mice that Klaassen used for research.  Klaassen has been at the University since 1968.  He is a professor at the University’s School of Medicine in its Department of Pharmacology, Toxicology, and Therapeutics.  The lawsuit names the University of Kansas, the University of Kansas School Medicine, the University’s Board of Regents, and several officials at the University as defendants.  Klaassen’s lawsuit was brought pursuant to a federal civil rights statute, 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

Section 1983 lawsuits involve deprivation by a state of an individual’s rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the United States Constitution.  Therefore, it is available to state employees.  It is not available to federal employees.  Section 1983 was a post-Civil War piece of legislation that was intended to provide a basis for redress by former slaves against states that refused to relinquish Jim Crow laws.  Use of Section 1983 went relatively inactive for a long period of time.  Its use was revived in the 1970s as a basis for whistleblower complaints.  It is also often frequently used for tort-related lawsuits, including wrongful arrest claims, and prisoner’s rights lawsuits.

University spokesmen denied the allegations contained in both the Moore Complaint and the Klaassen Complaint, claiming that both of the Complaints are baseless.

If you are a federal, state, or private employee and find yourself in a situation in which you have voiced or believe you need to voice complaints about practices by your employer and are facing retaliation or have concerns about potential retaliation, Barrett Law PLLC can help.  Our seasoned attorneys will provide you with legal guidance as to your rights and the protections to which you may be entitled.  We have a long history of protecting the rights of whistleblowers, whether federal, state, or private employees.  Contact us today at (800) 707-9577 to schedule your free and completely confidential initial consultation.

OSHA Orders Reinstatement, Awards Damages to Gaines Motor Lines, Inc., Employees

Saturday, December 7th, 2013

On November 13, 2013, the United States Department of Labor, Office of Public Affairs issued a press release announcing that one of its enforcement arms, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), awarded damages to four former employees of Gaines Motor Lines, Inc., of just over $1 million.  Gaines Motor Lines, Inc., is a North Carolina-based freight company offering shipping and supply-chain services to a variety of businesses.  The company has terminal locations in North Carolina, South Carolina, New Jersey, and Rhode Island.  Gaines Motor Lines, Inc., serves the Southeast and the Eastern seaboard.  The company has approximately 100 employees and 60 trucks in its fleet.

OSHA ordered Gaines Motor Lines, Inc., and two of its key employees—Tim Gaines and Rick Tompkins–to pay compensation to four former employees whom OSHA determined were terminated in violation of whistleblower protections of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act.  The compensation includes back wages, interest, and a total of $675,000 in punitive damages.  Three of the four former employees (one is deceased) were also awarded reinstatement.  According to OSHA’s Preliminary Order, the four employees who were terminated by Gaines Motor Lines, Inc., were terminated for participating in an inspection of one of the company’s facilities conducted by the United States Department of Transportation, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.  The inspection indicated that some drivers of Gaines Motor Lines, Inc., had been falsifying logs and had poor driving records.  Assistant Secretary of Labor, Dr. David Michaels, stressed that employees must feel able to raise safety concerns without fear of retaliation and that undermining employees’ cooperation in inspections was unacceptable.

Gaines Motor Lines, Inc., immediately issued a statement indicating that the company intended on appealing the OSHA order.  The company indicated that the former employees were terminated as part of a larger reduction in force and also suggested that the former employees may have been discharged because of poor performance.  The statement also suggested that one of the four former employees requested to be laid off.  The company further cited its long history in the community and its concern with safety in defense of itself.

OSHA’s award in this case reinforces the scope of remedial and other actions that are afforded to it under whistleblower protection enforcement laws.  OSHA is the primary agency charged with enforcing whistleblower provisions of numerous federal statutes.  Any individual who believes he or she has been retaliated against for any activities protected by whistleblower statutes can report the violation to OSHA.  Depending upon the Act under which the violation occurred, the employee has between thirty and one hundred eighty days to report the retaliation action.   Upon receipt of a complaint, OSHA notifies the employer and will attempt conciliation.  If these efforts are unsuccessful, OSHA will investigate the allegations.  If it determines that there has been a violation, it can order reinstatement, payment of back wages, and reimbursement to the employee for attorneys’ fees.  Information about the various whistleblower provisions that OSHA enforces can be found at http://www.dol.gov/compliance/laws/comp-whistleblower.htm.

If you or a loved one has been retaliated against due to the raising of concerns about practices by your or your loved ones’ employee, Barrett Law PLLC can help you understand the rights and the protections to which you may be entitled.  This is true regardless of whether you are an employee of the federal, state, or local government or a private company.  Our firm has extensive experience representing individuals in all types of whistleblower lawsuits.  Contact us today at (800) 707-9577 to schedule an initial consultation.

Johnson and Johnson Settles Massive Lawsuits with Huge Payouts to Whistleblowers

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013

Johnson & Johnson, one of the nation’s oldest and one of the world’s largest companies, has recently settled a massive series of lawsuits involving allegations that Johnson & Johnson, through two of its subsidiaries, engaged in marketing drugs for unapproved uses and giving kickbacks to physicians and nursing homes.  Johnson & Johnson will pay a total of $2.2 billion in damages and fines and damages in both civil and criminal cases.  Criminal fines amount to $485 million, and $1.72 billion will be allocated to civil settlements with both the federal government and several states.  The global settlement is one of the largest health care fraud settlements in the history of the United States.

Allegations against Janssen Pharmaceuticals, one of Johnson & Johnson’s subsidiaries, regarding Risperdal spanned a course of conduct over the years 1999 through 2005.  Johnson & Johnson, through its subsidiary, promoted the use of Risperal to treat specific individuals and conditions for which the drug had not been FDA-approved.  During the time period, Risperdal was approved for use only to treat schizophrenia.  However, Risperdal was improperly promoted for use treating behavioral problems in elderly dementia patients, including anxiety, agitation, and depression.  Its use with this population was promoted, despite Johnson & Johnson’s awareness that Risperdal posed increased health risks to elderly patients, including stroke.  It was also improperly promoted for use treating children suffering from conduct disorders, as well as in treating children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.  This, too, was despite Johnson & Johnson’s awareness that Risperdal posed an increased health risk to children, including risk of increased hormone levels.  Finally, Risperdal was improperly promoted for use in treating conduct disorders in individuals with development disabilities.  Allegations involving Risperdal also included that Johnson & Johnson, through Janssen, violated the federal Anti-Kickback statutes by making illegal payments to health care providers and long-term care pharmacy providers for promoting the aforesaid uses of Risperdal.

With regard to Invega, a drug approved only for treatment of schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder, allegations included that Johnson & Johnson, and Janssen Pharmaceuticals, marketed it for off-label uses from 2006 through 2009.

The allegations also include that the company paid kickbacks to Omnicare, Inc., the largest pharmacy in the United States.  It specializes in dispensing drugs to nursing home patients.  The kickbacks were designed to induce Omnicare and its consultants to encourage the use of Risperdal by nursing home patients.

Other allegations include that Johnson & Johnson, through another of its subsidiaries—Scios, Inc.—cause false and fraudulent submission of claims to federal health care programs related to the drug Natrecor.  Natrecor is used to treat severe heart failure.  Johnson & Johnson, through Scios, Inc., marketed the drug for use with patients with less than severe heart failure, which use was not scientifically supported.

The civil settlement includes damages for violations of the federal False Claims Act related to Risperdal, Invega, and Natrecor.  Johnson & Johnson, through Janssen Pharmaceuticals, will pay $1.391 billion to resolve the False Claims Act allegations related to Risperdal and Invega and $184 million to resolve the False Claim Act allegations related to Natrecor.  The company will also pay $149 million to resolve the kickback allegations related to Omnicare, Inc.

The massive settlement includes damages for whistleblower in three states.  Whistleblowers in Pennsylvania will receive $112 million.  Whistleblowers in California will receive $28 million. And, whistleblowers in Massachusetts will receive nearly $28 million.

As part of the settlement, Johnson & Johnson’s subsidiary, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, has also agreed to plead guilty to two counts of introducing a misbranded drug, Risperdal, into commerce, which is a violation of the Food and Drug Act.

Barrett Law PLLC has a long history of representing individuals in whistleblower cases.  We have been advising clients as to their rights and helping them through all variety of whistleblowing matters for 75 years.  Barrett Law PLLC will be there to help you, too. Contact us today at (800) 707-9577 to schedule an initial consultation.

Celebrity’s Tragic Death Serves as Reminder of the Dangers of “Fast and Furious” Driving

Monday, December 2nd, 2013

Many of us have seen one or more of the “Fast and Furious” franchise of movies.  These movies depict, and largely glorify, the lifestyle of illegal street racing, involving beautiful cars, beautiful people, and fun.  In the movies, 100-mile-per-hour-plus races down city streets, back alleys, and highways are common.  In a grotesquely tragic twist of irony, one of the movie franchise’s main stars – Paul Walker – lost his life on November 30, 2013, while speeding down a street in a Porsche Carrera GT.  The car in which Walker was riding slammed into a tree and then literally ripped apart and burst into flames.  Photographs of the car depicted a mangled and twisted pile of charred metal that resembled a heap of scrap metal more than a car worth in excess of $400,000.

The car was capable of reaching speeds of 205 miles per hour.  The prior owner of the car, who himself is a professional Porsche racing driver, indicated that the car could be tricky to handle.  Authorities have indicated that speed was likely a factor in the accident but official results of the cause of the accident will not be released for approximately three months.  However, it has also been stressed that the driver of the car, Roger Rodas, had plenty of experience with fast cars—he was a former professional race-car driver.  Autopsies of the two men were delayed in order to allow obtaining dental records, as their bodies were so badly burned as to be indistinguishable from one another.

The accident is a grim reminder of a reality—speed kills.  Speeding in and of itself is a cause of approximately 5% of automobile accidents, but driving too fast for conditions and driving too fast for curves are the number one and number two decisional errors leading to accidents.  Moreover, speed is a factor in nearly one-third of fatal accidents across the United States.  Said another way, while speed is not the biggest cause of accidents, it is a significant cause of deadly ones in the United States.

Results released from the New York City Department of Transportation indicated that, in 2012, speeding was the top cause of fatal motor vehicle accidents.  A recently-released study by the Governor’s Highway Safety Administration also found that speeding was the cause of approximately one-third of all fatal automobile accidents involving teenaged males, compared with rates between fifteen and twenty percent involving males between the ages of 35 to 45.

If you or someone you love has been injured in an automobile accident, the consequences can be devastating.  This is true regardless of the cause.  However, if excessive speed was the cause, you may be feeling as if you have been victimized twice—once by the accident and once by the extreme disregard for the safety of others by the driver of the other vehicle involved in the collision.  The professionals at Barrett Law PLLC understand the emotional turmoil that individuals experience after a serious automobile accident.  We can stand by you during this difficult time, helping you through the maze of issues that you are now facing.  You should not have to face them alone.

Barrett Law PLLC has been representing the rights of individuals injured in motor vehicle accidents in Mississippi for more than seven decades.  If you or someone you love has been injured in a motor vehicle accident, please contact us today to discuss your rights.  We can be reached at (800) 707-9577.