June 2010 Archives

June 30, 2010

Update on The IUD Investigation in Rhode Island

After my recent post indicating that OB-GYN Associates is being investigated by the Rhode Island Department of Health, it now turns out that two more popular practices, Bayside OB-GYN and the Center for Obstetrics and Gynecology, are now also under investigation. All three facilities are being investigated for using non FDA-approved IUD devices that were purchased from foreign countries, presumably for less money.

The IUD device is a form of birth control that is placed inside the uterus to prevent pregnancy. Non FDA approved devices may be ineffective in preventing pregnancy. All three facilities are now required to inform the patients that received the non FDA approved IUD.

This is a fascinating story and it is unclear how far this investigation might stretch. If you, a friend, or family member is or previously was a patient of these practices and became pregnant while under the IUD device, you may have a case for medical malpractice.

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June 28, 2010

Rhode Island Passes Law Meant to Help Protect Bicyclists

I have written time and time again about the unique dangers faced by bicycle riders on the road. I am an avid bicyclist myself and am well aware of how dangerous it can be for bike riders to share the road with cars and trucks. Apparently, the Rhode Island General Assembly agrees. Spurred by the tragic death of Frank J. Cabral who was killed while riding a bike in Charlestown, the Rhode Island General Assembly has passed a law requiring motorists to drive a safe distance from bicyclists.

Frank Cabral's girlfriend worked with the General Assembly to help ensure that some form of law passed. She proposed temporary loss of license, driver training, etc for anyone who hit a bicyclist on the road. The General Assembly fell far short of such severe penalties, but have now given the police authority to issue citations for $85 if they believe that a driver has endangered the safety and welfare of a bike rider.

Final approval was given to a legal requirement

that motorists may pass bicyclists only "at a safe distance," which is defined as "sufficient to prevent contact with the person operating the bicycle if the person were to fall into the driver's lane of traffic."

Bicycle accidents are always incredibly dangerous because of the lack of safety equipment offered by vehicles. Fractures, head injuries, scarring, and even death, are common injuries in accidents between autos and bicycles.

Drivers must be on the look out for riders and be aware of the rules of the road. Bikers are authorized to ride in the street and should not ride on sidewalks which would be extremely dangerous for bikers and pedestrians. The fear of penalty for driving too closely to bikers may encourage drivers to maintain a proper lookout, especially in urban areas and around bike paths where bikers are likely to be prevalent.

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June 26, 2010

Rhode Island Department of Health is Investigating OB-GYN Associates

The Rhode Island Department of Health has released a statement reporting that they are now investigating OB-GYN Associates for using non-FDA approved IUDs. OB-GYN Associates is a very popular practice group in Providence and this news must come as a shock to its thousands of patients.

IUDs are a form of birth control which is physically inserted into the uterus to prevent pregnancy. The Department of Health believes that OB-GYN Associates may have been purchasing non-FDA approved versions of Mirena and Paragard, popular versions of IUDs. Use of non FDA approved medicines, including IUDs is prohibited by law.

It is possible that over 500 women may have had the non FDA approved device inserted in the past year at OB-GYN Associates. The primary concern in using a non approved version of the medicine is that it will be ineffective. In this case, the IUD may be ineffective in preventing pregnancy and may result in unwanted pregnancy. Unwanted pregnancy caused by the negligence of a doctor is medical malpractice and if you believe that your unexpected birth may have been caused by doctor negligence then you need to contact our office right away.

If these accusations are true, it remains unclear what motive OB-GYN may have had to purchase non approved drugs from a non approved facility. The most likely explanation is decreased cost. It is also unclear if OB-GYN associates will be investigated for the use of any other non FDA approved drugs in their practice. If you feel that you may have been effected by this illegal practice, contact the Rhode Island Department of Health right away.

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June 23, 2010

Rhode Island's New Fireworks Law and the Danger of Injury

The 4th of July is just around the corner and that means barbecues and fireworks. In Rhode Island, fireworks have been heavily discussed in the news thanks to a new law that allows the sale of certain types of fireworks in the State.

According to the general assembly, only the most basic types of fireworks, such as sparklers and smoke bombs, are legal under the new law. The most fun fireworks, projectile and loud, such as roman candles and bottle rockets, still require a license. Nevertheless, I expect to see an increased use of fireworks of all kinds throughout the State this summer.

Of course, the reason that fireworks require a license for use, is that they are extremely dangerous. Fireworks are, after all, controlled explosions. Accidents can occur in private backyard barbecues or in large public audiences, such as the injuries sustained at McCoy Stadium a few years ago. Fireworks accidents can result from lack of instructions or safety warnings, defective fireworks, fireworks that detonate early, or detonating fireworks too close to spectators.

The most common injuries from fireworks are to the hands, face, eyes and ears. Injuries can range from minor burns to amputations, blindness, and even death.

I urge everyone to enjoy the holiday safely. If fireworks are part of that enjoyment, respect how dangerous they can be and stay safe. If you are the unfortunate victim of a fireworks accident, contact our office right away. We will investigate the facts of the incident to identify who the responsible parties may be in order to obtain financial compensation for your injuries.

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June 20, 2010

Rhode Island Finally Changes Harsh Probation Laws

Prisoners released from jail on probation are told that they need to "keep the peace" and "be of good behavior." If he or she is arrested while on probation that person would be charged with the new crime but also with a second offense for violating probation. This meant an immediate trip back to prison. An additional term of time to serve would be addressed for the probation violation.

So far nothing has changed... However, in the past, the defendant would stay in prison on the probation violation charges EVEN IF the new charges were dismissed. For example, a defendant on probation for drug charges is arrested for shoplifting. He or she will be charged with shoplifting AND for violating his probation (failing to keep the peace and be of good behavior). If the shoplifting charges were dismissed, the defendant would remain in prison to serve the sentence for violating probation.

For years, defense attorneys and certain lawmakers have argued that when a case is dismissed and a person is shown not to have broken any law, then they should not be in violation of probation. This only makes sense. Unfortunately, for years the State believed that the act of getting arrested and being a suspect in a crime was sufficient to violate probation and be not "of good behavior."

Finally, the State has reversed its view and after several revisions, Governor Carcieri accepts this as a new law. If a person is arrested for charges while on probation but those charges are subsequently dropped, he or she will not be seen as a probation violator.

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June 15, 2010

Massachusetts May Raise the Minimum Age to Operate ATV's

Three years after introduction, the Massachusetts House of Representatives, overwhelmingly voted to ban use of ATV's by riders under the age of 14. The current State law allows riders as young as 10 to operate ATV's which can be extremely dangerous. Across the country, 77% of all ATV related injuries and deaths involved riders younger than 14.

Under the new law riders 14-16 will only be allowed to ride ATV's with an engine capacity under 90cc, or in a sanctioned race supervised by someone over the age of 18. While there are opponents to the measure, I would expect to see this law quickly passed. Massachusetts has had a high number of tragedies involving young children and off-road vehicles, such as ATV's. In the last few years, Massachusetts has investigated over 300 reported accidents and 21 fatalities caused by ATV accidents.

I have previously discussed the laws surrounding ATV accidents in Massachusetts, and I have a great deal of experience in handling these types of cases. ATV accidents result in very serious injuries, and even death. It is imperative that you contact an experienced ATV accident attorney right away.

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June 12, 2010

Knee Injuries in Auto Accidents

While neck and back strains might be the most common injury to occur in auto accidents, many people experience injury to their knee. Knee injuries can occur in a variety of car accidents, such as rollovers, side impact, or front end accidents. If the knee strikes the door, or the dashboard,or is twisted, it can result in serious injury. Another cause of injury occurs when the driver braces for the accident by slamming on the brakes and hyperextends the knee on impact.

The most common injury is a strain or total tear of the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) and the MCL (medial collateral ligament). A strain of either of these ligaments will cause pain, discomfort, and temporary disability that requires physical therapy. A total rupture of these ligaments is a much more serious injury that will likely require surgical repair and lengthy rehabilitation. Two less common knee injuries that occur in car accidents are tears of the meniscus (tears in the cartilage in the knee) and a tear of the PCL (posterior collateral ligament) which can result from a direct violent impact to the knee such as striking the dashboard.

In the most serious situations, accident victims can experience tears of two or more ligament tears at the same time. A tear of both the ACL and MCL will require surgery and result in a lengthy period of total disability.

Knee injuries are serious and debilitating. Even a minor strain can cause a great deal of discomfort in walking, standing, and even driving a car. This can result in total disability, extensive need for rehabilitation, and lost wages.

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June 10, 2010

400 DUI Convcitions Based on Flawed Testing

Washington, D.C. is reporting that nearly 400 people convicted of drunk driving since 2008 may have been convicted with inaccurate breathalyzer results. Half of those convicted spent time in jail, perhaps unnecessarily. D.C. Attorney General, Peter Nickles, said that the machines were improperly calibrated by the police. The inaccurate calibration led to results that were up to 20% higher than the actual blood alcohol level. Such a mistake could have resulted in wrongful convictions or may have wrongfully earned a more severe sentence under the wrong belief that a person was highly intoxicated.

Requests for new trials, expungements, and even lawsuits against the District have already begun pouring in. Some of the verdicts will stand based on other, still useful, evidence such as police testimony or subsequent blood and urine testing. Nevertheless, other cases may need to be re-tried without the inaccurate breathalyzer results.

These machines require precise calibration and proper care and maintenance at all times in order to give an accurate blood alcohol reading. A good DUI lawyer will challenge the accuracy and validity of test results to try and remove the results from evidence. This story will add fuel to the debate that these tests too often produce inaccurate results.

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June 7, 2010

Suit Alleges Woman Contracted Mesothelioma by Washing Family Work Clothes

I came across an interesting lawsuit out of Texas. Apparently, the family of a deceased woman, Claudia Headley, is bringing a wrongful death lawsuit against several asbestos manufacturers after contracting mesothelioma and passing away in 2008. Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that is almost always caused by inhalation of asbestos fibers.

The woman did not work directly with any asbestos materials, but washed the clothes of her father, husband, and son, all of whom worked in an oil refinery. For roughly forty years, Ms. Headley suffered second hand exposure to asbestos because the asbestos dust covered her family's clothes. It was enough exposure to cause her mesothelioma.

One difficulty that the plaintiffs will run into is showing that Ms. Headley's death was foreseeable. Asbestos manufacturers are liable to the workers who died from breathing in their dangerous product because it was known and kept secret for decades that asbestos could cause cancer. It is a bit of a jump, however, to say that it was foreseeable that even washing the laundry of men exposed to asbestos could be sufficient to cause mesothelioma. It is a bit like a non-smoker suing a tobacco company for lung cancer caused by second hand smoke. If the defendant can prove that her death was not foreseeable, they may be able to escape liability.

It is also worth noting that it does not take direct or constant exposure to asbestos materials to develop asbestosis or mesothelioma. Even second hand or minor amounts of contact can be sufficient to contract the deadly disease.

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June 3, 2010

Why Don't They Just Overturn Miranda Already?

I've written in the past, here, and here, about how Miranda has been continually weakened over the past several decades until now it is merely a shell known best for its TV dramatization than for any actual legal protection. This week the Supreme Court might have shot it and left it for dead.

The case, Berghuis v. Thompkins, rises from Michigan. The Supreme Court ruled that a defendant has to actively invoke his right to remain silent. The defendant, Van Chester Thompkins, was read his rights and admits to understanding them. Thompkins remained silent while Michigan police interrogated him for Three Hours! Finally, one of the police asked, "Do you pray to God to forgive you for shooting that boy down?" to which Mr. Thompkins said, "yes." This one word statement after three hours of interrogation was used against Thompkins and upheld by the Supreme Court. (I will save my dismay about using God to create guilt during an interrogation for another blog post!)

The Court believes that a suspect can not merely remain silent (even if for three hours) in order to gain the protections of Miranda, he must actually say to the police, I am invoking my right to remain silent. The Supreme Court is now saying that any person brought in for questioning may be interrogated for hours unless he or she verbalizes their request for an attorney and their desire to remain silent. In other words, you have the right to remain silent but we are going to harass you until you finally say something and it will be used against you.

In the past, the police had to prove that a defendant waived his Miranda rights in order to admit a statement. This ruling gives them power to harass and interrogate endlessly without any question as to whether a defendant has actually waived his rights.

Honestly, there is very little protection left to Miranda. In fact, more defendants are probably confused by the law than are protected by it. This is a disturbing opinion by an increasingly conservative bench. Interestingly, Justice Sotomayor gave a vehement dissent while writing for the minority (in a 5-4 decision).

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