August 2008


The CPSC has issued a warning regarding Simplicity 3-in-1 and 4-in-1 Convertible “Close Sleeper” model bassinets.  The CPSC has received reports of two infants strangling to death in the metal bars on the bassinet.  One death occurred in September of 2007 and one happened in August 2008. 

Simplicity Inc. was recently purchased by SFCA, Inc., which has refused to issue a recall of the product, because it claims to have no responsibility for products produced by Simplicity, Inc. before the purchase.  The CPSC voted, using its new authorities in the recently passed Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, to release this warning upon making a finding that public health and safety requires immediate notice.  The CPSC urges all consumers to share this safety warning with day care centers, consignment stores, family and friends to ensure that no child is placed to sleep in one of the Simplicity convertible bassinets covered under this warning.

Tortdeform posted an article entitled “The Digitek Recall Shows Us Once Again That the FDA Can’t Protect Us”, detailing the history of the Digitek diaster.  A little history, drug maker Actavis produces a drug called Digitek, which is the trade name for the drug digoxin.  Digoxin is used to treat various heart conditions, including heart failure.  On April 25, 2008, Actavis recalled 160 lots of Digitek, because the company put a double dose of medication in the pills in that lot.  This led to people getting double doses and having serious reactions, including reports of deaths related to the medication. 

Justinian’s story at Tort Deform outlines the FDA’s reaction or non-action in the case.  The FDA inspected the plant in 2006 and found “significant deficiencies” in the quality control unit of the plant, as well as in the manufacturing unit of the plant.  The FDA sent a letter outlining its findings to Actavis in April of 2007.  A full year before the recall.  Justinian sums up the problem as follows: 

One has to wonder just how bad the “significant deficiencies” that the FDA found in Actavis’ quality control unit when one considers what the defect was: Some Digitek tablets were twice as thick as they should be.  What kind of quality control program can’t spot pills coming out twice as thick as they should?  The FDA found that the quality control department was ignoring some defects.  Surely they couldn’t have been so incompetent as to ignore a double-thick tablet, could they? 

“Reading Justice Diaz’s opinion itself, I do not understand why other justices would vote to suppress it. It seems to me within the normal bounds of debate you see in dissents, and has nothing that one could take as personal or an attack between the justices.”  This is a quote from Oxford attorney Tom Freeland IV, in a story by the Daily Journal.  It concerns a dissent written by a sitting Justice of the Mississippi Supreme Court.  The Court has taken an extreme bent in recent years, the result of national money pouring into Supreme Court campaigns from the Chamber of Commerce and other business groups.  The groups have turned the Court into as conservative a court as you could ask for. 
The quote above concerns a dissent written by one of two Justices who are not in the conservative majority.  Courts of appeal routinely write opinions which are accompanied by dissents.  The dissent is a chance for a Justice to disagree with the ultimate decision rendered by the court.  They have no bearing on the ruling of law annunciated in the court’s decision, but can give guidance to future litigants who might want to attempt to change the result of the case.
The Mississippi Supreme Court voted to ban disclosure of the dissent written by Diaz.  Court watchers, according to the story, found the court’s vote “unusual” and “unbelievable.  It certainly sets up a situation where future justices could be cowed into not writing dissents for fear of a similar vote coming up and being made public.  It certainly will have a chilling effect on dissenters.  Appears to be an extension of tort reform from the bench, a situation I have blogged about before, by muzzling an alternative view of the law.

Update:  Follow up story from the SunHerald.com

 
 
 

 

The CSPC announced a recall on Electra “Amsterdam” model bicycles.  The interior alignment tabs of the bicycle’s chainguard can push against the chain, causing the chain to derail.  This can pose a serious risk of injury to riders.  Amsterdam model bicycles in the Classic 3, Original 3, Royal 8, and Sport 3 styles are involved in the recall.  The bikes were sold nationwide from January 2007 through June 2008 for between $400 and $850 at authorized Electra dealers.  This is the second Electra bike recall.  The total number of bikes involved in both recalls tops 10,000.  Electra has received a report of injuries related to this defect.

According to a story in the Charleston Gazette, AIG is being sued for refusing to pay a life insurance policy on an Iraq war veteran.  The veteran, Andrew White, served with the Marines in Iraq, as a combat engineer, disarming bombs and patrolling the Syrian/Iraqi border.  Upon returning from the war, White took out a life insurance policy with AIG in 2005.  White’s brother, who served in Afganastan, was killed in action before White took out the policy, and his brother’s death was the impetus for White deciding to purchase life insurance. 

In 2007, White was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder.  White subsequently died in his sleep.  The autopsy found normal levels of prescription medication in his body.  The coroner ruled White’s death accidental.  When presented with the claim, AIG denied the claim based on the fact that White failed to report he was involved in a car accident when he was 16 years old when he filed his application. 

Jack Tinney, the attorney for the family was quoted as saying, “(t)hey have gone back and searched for any reason whatsoever to deny the claim, rather than look for a valid reason”.   Sounds like the plaintiffs in this case have a good bad faith case against AIG.

According to an article in the Washington Post, the Senate approved a new bill that would remove toxic chemicals from toys and put new enforcement measures in place to ensure hazardous products don’t make it to the marketplace.  The bill bans lead from kid’s products and toys, and also bans dangerous phthalates, such as diisononyl phthalate (DINP) from use in infant and toddler products.  Phthalates are a type of chemical used in soft plastics which are used to make products including teethers and pacifiers.

The bill will require toymakers to send their products to indepedent labs for testing before the products hit the marketplace.  The bill also restricts the use of earth magnets in toys, a practice that has caused serious injuries to children over the past several years, including a death. 

The give the law teeth, the bill will double funding for the CPSC, the government agency charged with policing products and pulling dangerous products from the market.  In the wake of the toy recalls of the past several years, the CPSC has increasingly come under scrutiny as ineffective and slow to act.  The law authorizes state attorney generals to help the CPSC enforce the federal product safety laws, and they will be able to take manufacturers who bring dangerous products into the marketplace to court, to take dangerous products out of the stream of commerce.

The bill provides for steeper penalties for manufacturers who violate the new safety laws.  The new fines go as high as $15 million, where the old fines topped out at $1.8 million.  It is hoped the new measures will ease the minds of parents who have in recent years been hammered by product recall after product recall.

Article in NY Times regarding findings that some granite counter tops emit dangerous levels of radon and radiation.  Radon is a hazardous chemical element, a colorless gas, which is the second most frequent cause of lung cancer after cigarette smoking.  The article relates the story of a homeowner who had her granite counter tested and found levels over 25 times those considered safe.  Radon exposure is especially dangerous to smokers, whose lungs are already in a compromised position, as well as young children.

There are several resources on-line to help determine if you have a problem.  The EPA has a Radon website with links to information on testing your home for radon.  The AARST (American Association of Radon Scientists and Technologists) website also has information on technicians qualified to test your home for radon. 

An EPA spokesman is quoted in the story as saying “there is no known safe level of radon or radiation” exposure and that “any exposure (to radon) increases your health risk”.