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Oxycontin is one opioid causing addiction
One year ago a multidistrict litigation site (MDL 2804) was chosen as the venue for cities, counties, and states to bring civil actions against the makers of opioids. As I wrote about then, the opioid crisis has created huge burdens on states and municipalities. State and local governments have shouldered much of the cost of caring for individuals addicted to opioids. The federal government estimated that, in 2015 alone, 12.5 million people misused prescription opioids, and 33,000 people died from opioid overdose. In 2013, opioid abuse resulted in over $78.5 billion in economic losses. Cities, counties, and states have picked up much of that staggering cost. These government entities in MDL 2804 are fighting back, and many have filed lawsuits against the makers of opioids to recoup the billions of dollars lost in this ongoing crisis.

And while MDL 2804 is critically important, and overdue, other groups of opioid victims do not necessarily “fit” within the concept of an MDL focused on government plaintiffs. Among other victims, huge numbers of infants have been born addicted to opioids. Starting life this way creates layers of physical, mental, and emotional challenges. These children are the ultimate “innocent victims,” and they deserve an MDL court dedicated to ensuring a fair and full opportunity to seek compensation for their injuries.

Opioid-Addicted Infants Present Unique Claims

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For more than three years I have been writing about the dangers of certain implanted medical devices. These devices include artificial hips, hernia mesh, IUDs, IVC filters, and others. And some have caused massive human suffering: neurological problems, sexual dysfunction, immobility, infertility, headaches, pain, even death. If you are reading this sentence then you discovered my site because of your interest in medical devices and the problems they can cause. And if you are interested in this subject, you must see the new Netflix documentary The Bleeding Edge.

The Bleeding EdgeThe Bleeding Edge is a remarkable film investigating the public health crisis caused by our current medical device industry. It examines the two main causes permitting the manufacture and sale of defective medical devices: corporate greed and inadequate FDA oversight. It is a tragic story, particularly when the film takes a close look at many of the actual victims of these harmful medical devices. It’s one thing to hear that the Essure birth control device has injured thousands of women; it’s quite another when you see a woman on screen explain how she has given up on her hope to find love because she can no longer have intercourse due to permanent internal injuries. It is deeply sad to hear these stories. And it may have you writing your member of congress. Which you should.

I urge you to check out the film. Here are a few key takeaways:

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Woman in pain with Essure birth control device
Bayer’s Essure birth control device is coming off the market, thanks to a public campaign aimed at raising awareness about its dangers. After years of silence, in which women were told that their pain wasn’t real, and years of incident reports that went unheeded, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) finally agreed that Bayer needed to do more to warn patients about the risks of the birth control device.

Now that women are making informed decisions, use of the birth control device has dropped off so precipitously that Bayer is ending its production. Let’s look at what Essure is and why it’s so dangerous.

The Essure Birth Control Implant

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Individual Opioid Lawsuits
Most of you have heard reports about the devastating effects of opioids. Millions of people have become addicted, and many of those people have overdosed and died while taking the addictive pain medication. Even in cases when death does not occur, addiction has caused job losses, ravaged families, and cost billions of dollars in treatment for victims.

Up to this point, most of the recent litigation involving opioids has involved lawsuits against the makers of opioids on behalf of states and local governments. The essential complaint is this: [Blank] State has incurred millions of dollars in losses because citizens in the state became addicted to opioids and required government assistance in the form of hospitalization, treatment programs, unemployment, welfare, and other governmental expenditures.

Oxycontin is an addictive opioid.
But what about individuals? It is plain to see how a state or county can articulate damages from the direct and indirect costs of widespread opioid addiction, but individuals have been injured as well. In 2018, do these individuals have valid claims? Increasingly, it appears the answer is yes. And if so, this litigation will eventually be massive.

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If you have read any newspaper in the last year, you know that prescription opioids have caused massive suffering in this country. Addiction has skyrocketed. Sadly, deaths from overdoses and even opioid-related suicides have dramatically increased as well. In 2016 alone over 14,000 overdose deaths were reported from natural and semi-synthetic opioids, and over 20,000 people died of overdose from synthetic opioids (mostly fentanyl). Centers for Disease Control. Opioids have become a huge public health problem and a national tragedy. Inevitably, litigation has followed the suffering, and more lawsuits are being filed each week.

Despite the addictions, injuries, and deaths, and despite reports of awful business practices by the makers of these prescription painkillers, defense lawyers have developed certain legal defenses to help these drug companies avoid liability. Let’s look at a few:

The FDA Approved the Drug, So It’s the Government’s Fault

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I get calls from people who have been badly injured after surgery. If it’s straightforward surgery to repair a torn ACL, the question is whether the surgeon was negligent; if that turns out to be the case, the caller will have a claim for medical malpractice. But what if the surgeon is implanting a device: an artificial hip or knee or hernia mesh or pacemaker? And then after surgery the patient is worse off than before? If this is the result, the next question is this: was the person the victim of a defective product or medical malpractice? Or both?

So What’s the Difference?

Product liability or medical malpractice?Medical malpractice is the legal term for a doctor who has been negligent. This means that the doctor failed to perform the surgery with an expected degree of care and competence. In a phrase, the doctor simply screwed up the surgery. For a plaintiff to win a medical malpractice claim, he or she must show that the doctor failed to perform his duties with a normal “standard of care” typical of similarly situated doctors. This means that surgeons in small towns will be judged against similar doctors in similar towns, while doctors from major research hospitals in big cities will be judged against their similarly situated peers, and of course will be held to a higher standard. The bottom line is this: medical malpractice is the failure to provide competent medical care, causing the patient unexpected injury.

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Xarelto Plaintiffs seek new trialsRecently, three cases in the Xarelto multi-district litigation (MDL) ended in defense verdicts in favor of Xarelto’s manufacturers, Bayer, Janssen, and Johnson & Johnson. These lawsuits, specifically the Orr trial, the Boudreaux trial, and the Mingo trial, stem from the manufacturers’ failure to provide instructions regarding routine prothrombin time (PT) testing for patients with a high risk of bleeding while on Xarelto. In addition, the plaintiffs argued that defendants misled doctors about whether tests were available to assess effects and risks of the medicine.

Since the cases ended in verdicts for the drug manufacturer, the Plaintiffs are now appealing for new trials. The plaintiffs argue that the defense verdicts are a result of the district court wrongfully admitting evidence, denying admission of other evidence, and giving improper instructions to the jury.

In the legal brief, these arguments for new trials are broken down into four main points:

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Unhappy client waiting to hear from her lawyer
This is the question I get most often from people who have hired a lawyer but are not happy with the legal representation. Above almost everything else, good communication is the key to a healthy attorney-client relationship. I try not to be the kind of lawyer who doesn’t return phone calls. I don’t want any of my clients talking to another lawyer about me. And I understand: every client deserves to be updated regularly on his or her case.

Let’s look at some reasons why your lawyer may not be returning your calls:

  • Your lawyer is doing lawyer things.
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Seven years after filing suit, a North Carolina woman and her husband were awarded $68 million dollars for serious injuries caused by C.R. Bard’s defective pelvic mesh products.

Surgeon implants C.R. Bard pelvic mesh into woman
In 2009 Mary McGinnis was implanted with the Avaulta Solo Support System and Align Trans-Obturator Yrethral Support System, two pelvic mesh products manufactured and sold by C.R. Bard, Inc. and other defendants. Ms. McGinnis was implanted with these mesh products in an attempt to treat Ms. McGinnis’ stress urinary incontinence and to provide bladder support. Shortly after implantation of the mesh, Ms. McGinnis began having severe pains from nerve damage and pain during sex. She had to undergo several surgeries to attempt to correct the problems.

Ms. McGinnis and her husband filed suit in 2011, alleging that C.R. Bard knew the pelvic mesh was unsafe at the time the products were implanted in Ms. McGinnis, and that Bard failed to warn doctors about the dangers of the Avaulta and Align pelvic mesh. At trial lawyers for Bard argued that the Defendants met all industry standards and requirements for placing the Avaulta and Align mesh products on the markets.

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Xarelto MDL Louisiana federal courtAfter more than three years of litigation, and with no settlement agreement in sight, Judge Eldon Fallon has issued a court ruling to move hundreds of cases along in the next several months. Just to recap, the federal court in Louisiana was chosen as the multi-district litigation (MDL) site for plaintiffs filing lawsuits for injuries suffered after taking the blood-thinning drug Xarelto. In 2017 Janssen, Bayer and Johnson & Johnson, manufacturers and sellers of Xarelto, won three “bellwether trials” in this MDL, which you can read about here. Nevertheless, studies and evidence show Xarelto can cause uncontrollable bleeding in patients, and there is no available antidote once the bleeding starts. But with the defense winning three cases last year, the drug companies have (so far) not been willing to agree to a global settlement of the remaining 21,000+ cases. In an effort to wind down the litigation and encourage settlement, Judge Fallon has chosen to move things along:

Case Management Order No. 6

On February 27, 2018, Judge Fallon issued Case Management Order No. 6 (CMO No. 6) in the Xarelto MDL. This Order sets out the procedure for the selection of 1,200 Xarelto cases over the next six months. These cases will enter rigorous individual discovery and will be prepared for trials in the plaintiffs’ home districts. Among other things, the plaintiffs chosen in these 1,200 cases will be responsible for completion of an extensive “Plaintiff Fact Sheet,” which is essentially a comprehensive questionnaire on all salient facts about the Plaintiff, the Plaintiff’s use of Xarelto, the injuries suffered, and other relevant information. The defendants will also have to submit a “Defendant Fact Sheet.”