3004, 2010

Independence Police Department Settles Wrongful Death Suit from Police Chase

April 30th, 2010|Auto Accidents|Comments Off on Independence Police Department Settles Wrongful Death Suit from Police Chase

As a Missouri car accident attorney, I was interested in a recent story in the Kansas City Star about a wrongful death lawsuit resulting from a police chase that killed an innocent bystander. The parents of Christopher Cooper, 17, settled their lawsuit against the Independence (MO) Police Department and Medevac MidAmerica Inc., an emergency response provider, for $275,000. This is an important case because, as I discussed last week, it emphasizes that police officers need to exercise care when they respond to emergencies, lest they cause danger and damage rather than protecting the public from it.
In the accident that led to the Independence wrongful death lawsuit, an Independence police officer was pursuing a driver who was fleeing the scene of a collision with another car. Christopher Cooper was crossing the street on a bicycle when he was struck by that driver, Wilfredo J. Pujols Jr. of Independence. Pujols is a cousin to St. Louis Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols. He pleaded guilty in December 2008 to second-degree murder, resisting arrest and two counts of leaving the scene of an accident, and was sentenced to 15 years in prison. At the sentencing, Jackson County Circuit Judge Jack Grate described Pujols’s actions as “horrific,” and acknowledged the Cooper family’s “incalculable” pain. But to the Coopers, the criminal case against Pujols did not resolve the problem of what appeared to be a pattern of police chases in Independence that risked public safety. In the fall of 2007, there were three deaths resulting from police chases in Independence within a ten-day period. Two of those killed were the people who were fleeing from the police, and the third was Christopher.
In their wrongful death lawsuit, Christopher’s parents alleged that the Independence police shared the blame for Christopher Cooper’s death because they had not followed the city’s pursuit policy. They also alleged that, along with other emergency personnel, police failed to properly assess his injuries and made demeaning remarks at the scene of the accident. As a St. Louis car wreck lawyer, I could see the demeaning remarks that these emergency workers allegedly made as evidence that they weren’t taking the situation very seriously, even though a young man’s life was at stake, and ultimately was lost. The police could have chosen to deal with Pujols differently. Rather than chasing him when he fled from the scene of the first accident he caused, they could have alerted other officers to catch up him further down the road, or arrested him at his house later on. Instead, they chose what had already been shown, within the last few days, to be a dangerous course.


2904, 2010

Senator Calls for EOBRs in All Buses and Trucks to ‘Protect All Drivers on the Roads’

April 29th, 2010|Trucking Regulations|Comments Off on Senator Calls for EOBRs in All Buses and Trucks to ‘Protect All Drivers on the Roads’

As a St. Louis tractor-trailer crash lawyer, I was interested in a news item about the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation’s meeting with trucking industry agency leaders to discuss their oversight of motor carrier transportation. Senator Frank Lautenberg, D-NJ, chairman of the subcommittee on surface transportation, called for “universal installation” of electronic on-board recorders (EOBRs) in trucks and buses to improve public safety. As I’ve discussed here before, EOBRs would make it harder for truck drivers to get away with driving for more hours than they are legally allowed to. Hours of Service (HOS) regulations specify how long drivers may work before they are required to rest in order to reduce the likelihood that fatigued drivers will cause accidents that hurt or kill people.
Lautenberg pressed Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrator Anne Ferro to explain why only 1.3% of all trucking companies are being required to use EOBRs. As I wrote several weeks ago, the FMCSA is going to require trucking companies with a history of HOS rule-breaking to install EOBRs in 2012. Ferro told Lautenberg that the agency is working on a broader rule requiring EOBRs, but that it would take even longer to get that rule in place than it will to enact the narrower one taking effect in 2012. Meanwhile, Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association vice president Todd Spencer insists that EOBRs have nothing to do with public safety. EOBRs “can’t tell if a driver is sleepy, they can’t tell if a driver needs to rest, they can’t tell whether a driver is off duty or whether he’s physically handling 44,000 pounds of cargo. They are no more reliable than the paper logs that they would replace,” he said.
Of course, records produced by EOBRs are much less likely to be falsified, which is the whole point of using them. The existing paper logs often are riddled with errors and falsehoods, because drivers want to make more money by getting to their destinations faster, or are pressured by their employers to do so. That sometimes means not taking mandated rest periods, which means they arrive over-tired and sometimes unsafe. Truck drivers are currently allowed to drive 77 hours per week, which is almost twice as long as most people work. In contrast, airline pilots are allowed to fly only 30 hours per week, which is undoubtedly one of the factors making airplanes one of the safest forms of transportation in the United States. Fatigued truck drivers who fell asleep at the wheel, along with drivers who suffered heart attacks while driving, caused 12% of fatal crashes in which truck drivers were at fault, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Large Truck Crash Causation Study.
Truck drivers and the companies that employ them have a legal responsibility to comply with HOS rules and to recognize when drivers are too fatigued to continue driving — even if HOS rules would let them. They just shouldn’t be driving at all if they are too tired to be alert and safe on the roads. Eighteen-wheelers require greater stopping distance than passenger cars do because they are so much heavier. That means that a truck driver needs to be awake enough to pay careful attention to traffic conditions at all times — otherwise, he or she could cause a horrific crash. As a Missouri semi truck accident lawyer, I certainly don’t want to see any more wrecks like the one that killed three people and injured fourteen here in St. Louis in July of 2008, or last year’s tragedy in eastern Oklahoma, which caused nine fatalities.


2804, 2010

Avandia Study May End Early Due to High Risk of Patient Heart Attack

April 28th, 2010|Dangerous Drugs|Comments Off on Avandia Study May End Early Due to High Risk of Patient Heart Attack

In February, I wrote about the Senate’s report on their investigation of the diabetes drug Avandia (rosiglitazone) and allegedly unethical behavior by the drug’s manufacturer, GlaxoSmithKline. As a dangerous prescription drug lawyer, I keep a close watch when drug manufacturers face allegations of unethical behavior, as does GlaxoSmithKline, the maker of Avandia. Now, a Reuters report reveals that the FDA is considering ending a study of Avandia’s safety earlier than planned because subjecting study participants to this drug’s substantial risk of causing heart attack could be unethical.
A 2007 study by Dr. Steven Nissen of the Cleveland Clinic, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, showed that taking Avandia increased a patient’s heart attack risk by 64%. This is a frightening risk for Type II diabetes patients already at high risk for heart attack. University of Washington researcher Bruce M. Psaty, MD, PhD, said, “There is little evidence for using this drug…. The purpose of reducing blood sugar is to prevent cardiovascular events. Now the possibility of cardiovascular benefit associated with Avandia appears remote — indeed, it appears linked to harm.” Avandia already carries a black box warning, the strongest kind of warning from the FDA, about patients’ increased risk of heart failure. Two FDA drug safety reviewers recommended pulling the drug from the U.S. market in 2008, and in late March 2010, Saudi Arabia’s Food and Drug Authority suspended Avandia for six months.
Meanwhile, GlaxoSmithKline maintains that the evidence does not establish that Avandia increases the risk of heart attack, citing its own long-term study, which of course may not be completely objective. The February Senate report alleged that GlaxoSmithKline also tried to quash information damaging to Avandia by intimidating doctors and downplaying evidence of its dangers. Yet the Senate investigation found that privately, GlaxoSmithKline’s own scientists acknowledged that Dr. Nissen’s study was sound. As a defective prescription drug attorney, I think it’s important that patients be made aware of scientists’ and regulators’ concerns about Avandia.
By refusing to acknowledge the concerns of the FDA and the Senate, GlaxoSmithKline may be trying to protect its sales of Avandia, which reached $2.8 billion in 2006. But GlaxoSmithKline may pay a big price for doing so. Drug manufacturers can be held legally responsible for the harmful effects of their drugs if they fail to warn the public and government regulators about them. The FDA’s decision to consider ending the current Avandia study because of the heart attack risk, along with the Saudia Arabian FDA’s suspension of Avandia, suggests that everyone is convinced of Avandia’s risks — but GlaxoSmithKline simply won’t acknowledge them until it’s forced to. This is a dangerous game to play with patients’ health and lives.