Attorneys at Our Firm
Automobile Accident$4,200,000
Nursing Home Malpractice$2,200,000
River Street, Savannah
Railroad Crossing Accident$2,000,000
River Street, Savannah
Premises Liability$2,000,000
Talmadge Memorial Bridge
Medical Malpractice$1,600,000
Forsyth Park

Hernia mesh is a medical device that is used to repair hernias, which occur when internal organs bulge out through a weak spot of muscle. The only way to permanently fix a hernia is with surgery. However, hernias often return and need another surgery. To reduce this risk, surgeons implant hernia mesh inside the body to reinforce weak tissue. Most of the mesh devices are made from synthetic materials like polypropylene, a kind of plastic.  Some type of hernia mesh product is used in more than half of all hernia surgeries in the United States.

Unfortunately, patients that have had a hernia repaired with mesh are experiencing a number of complications including:

  • Pain

All of us have been taught the importance of being personally responsible and accountable for our actions. This week, the U.S. House of Representatives will vote on Bills that will make it more difficult, if not impossible, for citizens harmed by the wrongdoing of others to seek justice in our nation’s courts. Congress is proposing legislation that will make lawsuits brought by injured patients, nursing home residents, and their families nearly impossible to pursue. This so-called “Protecting Access to Care Act of 2017” (Bill H.R. 1215) will rig the system against individuals and tip the scales in favor of doctors, hospitals, nursing homes and their insurance companies. These bills seek to prevent medical care providers who commit negligence from being held accountable for the injuries and damages they cause. Instead of protecting our most vulnerable citizens, such as nursing home residents, Congress is attempting to enact laws that will benefit only the corporations that run nursing homes and the companies that insure them.

Unfortunately, certain politicians, who are supported in large part by corporations and insurance companies, are proposing these laws that are designed to destroy your right to hold wrongdoers accountable for their negligent acts and omissions.  If passed, the Bills proposed will radically change existing laws and radically limit citizens’ access to courts.  The proposed Bills include the following:

  1. A law designed to protect doctors, hospitals, nursing homes, and medical device manufacturers by limiting compensation for injuries caused by their negligence to $250,000, regardless of how egregious their conduct was or how much the injury has devastated a victim’s life.

Our firm has been suing nursing homes since the 1990s.  In fact, Suthers Law Firm was one of the first firms in the United States to obtain a successful jury verdict against a nursing home for neglecting and abusing a resident.  When we first started accepting these cases in the 1990s, the two most common types of injuries that we saw recurring in nursing homes were pressure sores and fall-related injuries. Regrettably, 20 years later, these are still the two most common injuries we see in the nursing home setting.  Fall-related injuries significantly impact the lives of residents and their families.  Some of the more significant, life-altering injuries resulting from falls in nursing homes include hip fractures and subdural hematomas (brain bleeds).  When a resident falls in a nursing home and suffers a serious injury, it often causes, or contributes to the cause, of impairment, disability, and a decrease in enjoyment of life.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has studied the impact of falls on elderly individuals.  As many as 75% of elderly individuals who reside in nursing homes sustain at least one fall yearly.  That is twice as much as the number of falls among older individuals living at home or within the community at large.  According to the CDC, as many as 20% of the falls that occur in nursing homes result in a serious injury.

In examining why falls occur in nursing homes, one must look at the patients’ risk factors as well as environmental factors.  Often, residents of nursing homes have medical conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease, impairment from a prior stroke, diabetic neuropathy, and visual impairment, which can affect their balance and ability to walk.  Residents may also have conditions, such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, that can affect their judgment.  These conditions place the residents at an increased risk of falling.  It is the nursing home’s duty to recognize these risk factors and take steps to prevent falls or lessen the risk of falls and fall-related injuries.  Nursing homes also have a duty to address any environmental hazards, such as clutter in the hallways, inadequate lighting, slippery floor surfaces, and lack of adequate safety equipment in rooms and bathrooms, in an effort to prevent falls.

A lawsuit brought by a number of homeowners who purchased new homes in Pooler, Georgia and Savannah, Georgia, alleges that bad concrete used in the construction of their homes has caused problems.  The concrete was poured and utilized in the foundations, slabs, footings, garages, driveways and patios, which are cracking and pitting, and giving off a very fine silicate dust.

One of the problems identified in the concrete mixture was an excessive percentage of fly ash, which is a material that is mixed with cement to form concrete.  Fly ash is a bi-product of burning coal.  Fly ash contains calcium, and its calcium content is an indicator of how well fly ash will perform when mixed into concrete.  Fly ash with higher calcium content, produced from burning lignite or sub-bituminous coal, is generally known as Class C fly ash.  However, excessive amounts of fly ash can cause the concrete to crumble and disintegrate.  This, in turn, can lead to a very fine silicate-like dust that can spread and pose a potential threat to the homeowners’ respiratory health.

A properly proportioned fly ash concrete mix can improve workability and increase the cohesiveness of concrete.  On the other hand, a badly proportioned concrete mix, such as one with too much fly ash or the wrong class fly ash, will not set and harden properly.  This can result in premature breakdown of a home’s foundations, footings, garages, driveways and patios.  The most troubling of these problems is when the home’s concrete foundation begins cracking and crumbling, because a foundation with a house built on top of it cannot be easily repaired or replaced.

On December 1st, jurors in Dallas Texas returned a verdict against Depuy Orthopedics for more than a billion dollars.  There were more thanDePuy Pinnacle 40 witnesses that testified during the 10 week trial. The jury deliberated for nearly eight hours before returning the verdict that awarded $32 million in actual damages and $1.009 billion in punitive damages.

The six plaintiffs involved in the trial suffered serious medical complications caused by defective metal-on-metal Depuy Pinnacle hip implants. The jurors found that DePuy Orthopaedic misled doctors and patients about the safety of its Pinnacle hip implant, and the device can deteriorate bone and tissue leading to severe pain and the need for revision surgery.

Depuy, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, is still faced with more than 8,600 Pinnacle-related lawsuits, which have been consolidated in federal court in Texas.

A North Carolina company recently agreed to pay $3.75 million to a South Carolina couple who were rear-ended by a company truck while Tractor-trailer-Rear-ending-Passenger-Car2the truck driver was talking on his cell phone.  The company, Unify, Inc., is a yarn manufacturer that has 60 trucks traveling across U.S. highways.  At the time of the collision, Unify had a company policy allowing its drivers to use their cell phones for a maximum time period of two minutes while they were operating company trucks.  Lawyers for the injured couple contended the company’s policy promoted dangerous behavior, as Unify failed to enforce the policy.  The at-fault driver’s cell phone logs showed that he would routinely use his cell phone for periods as long as seven hours during an approximate eight hour driving shift.  Other evidence produced during the case showed that other Unify truck drivers also violated the company policy.

Often, it takes a significant settlement payment to cause companies to change the way they operate.  This case was no exception.  As a result of the collision and settlement reached in the case, Unify decided to change its policy and prohibit its truck drivers from using cell phones or other mobile devices while operating their trucks on the roadway.

In 2012, the Federal Motor Carrier Association approved a new regulation that banned hand-held phone use by commercial vehicle drivers.  However, hands-free use of a cell phone, such as using a wireless Bluetooth device, is permitted.  The federal regulation is merely a minimum standard.  That does not mean that it is the best or safest standard.  Some trucking firms ban any cell phone use while their drivers are operating their trucks and have taken measures to enforce the rules.  For example, companies have installed cameras in the truck cabins, allowing them to monitor their drivers’ behavior while operating the trucks.

Life Care Centers of America (“LCCA”), and its owner Forrest Preston, have agreed to pay $145 million to settle a government lawsuit Life Care Centersalleging that LCCA violated the False Claims Act by knowingly causing their nursing homes to submit false claims for rehabilitation therapy services that were not reasonable or necessary. The Tennessee based company, owns and operates more than 200 nursing homes across the United States.  Forbes estimates that Forrest Preston, who is sole owner of the company, has a net worth of around $1.4 billion.

The lawsuit alleged that LCCA committed fraud by falsely billing Medicare and TRICARE for medical services that were provided to patients who were ineligible to receive them. Medicare reimburses nursing homes at a daily rate for the health care services that they provide to Medicare patients. This daily rate is based on the level of care that is provided to a patient, as well as the amount of time that a patient spends receiving that care.  Further, the Complaint contended that LCCA pressured their employees to provide the maximum level of care to their Medicare and TRICARE beneficiaries, despite the fact that many of these patients did not need these services, in an effort to increase the daily rate they billed to the government. The Department of Justice argued that this excessive level of medical attention, and increased length of stay, was harmful to these patients, and that LCCA’s financial interests were prioritized over the quality of care that was provided to their patients.  The settlement ends eight years of litigation in two consolidated False Claims Act lawsuits filed separately by a former nurse and a therapist employed at LCCA.

The False Claims Act allows private citizens to sue those that commit fraud against government programs.  Moreover, the False Claims Act contains qui tam, or whistleblower, provisions. Qui tam is a unique mechanism in the law that allows citizens with evidence of fraud against government contracts and programs to sue, on behalf of the government, in order to recover the stolen funds.  In compensation for the risk and effort of filing a qui tam case, the whistleblower or “relator” may be awarded a portion of the funds recovered, typically between 15 and 25 percent.

The Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), similar to the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), issued a Hazard Alert on September 27, 2016 for Stryker LFIT Anatomic CoCr V40 femoral heads. The LFIT V40 is a femoral head that orthopedic surgeons utilized in hip replacement surgeries. The Stryker LFIT V40 can be used interchangeably with Stryker’s entire product line of modular total hip replacement devices and is designed to offer a large range of offsets based on a patients’ needs. According to the Australian TGA, some LFIT Anatomic CoCr V40 femoral heads have a “higher than expected incidence of taper lock failures.” The taper lock connects the femoral head and femoral neck of the hip prosthesis. If the taper lock fails, the patient can suffer severe complications including catastrophic disassociation and metallosis, resulting in the need for emergent revision surgery. These conditions can lead to the destruction of tissue in the area of the implant, causing all sorts of complications. Stryker has recently notified orthopedic surgeons who have implanted the LFIT V40 of the increased incidence of taper lock failure and ensuing complications.

The Defective Medical Product attorneys at Suthers Law Firm are investigating the Stryker LFIT CoCr V40 femoral head cases on behalf of patients who were implanted with these devices and have suffered complications. These attorneys previously prosecuted cases successfully against Stryker on behalf of  many patients who were surgically implanted with Stryker Rejuvenate hip replacement products, which products were recalled by the FDA because of similar complications.

Recently, we reported on the new rule issued by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) that bars nursing homes from requiring residents to sign arbitration agreements as a condition of their admission to the nursing home.  These forced arbitration agreements prevented nursing home residents and their family members from filing a lawsuit against the nursing home when the resident was neglected and injured or killed.

Pre-dispute, forced arbitration agreements prevent the victims from enforcing their right to a jury trial and instead, require that their claims be decided by a single arbitrator.  By banning pre-dispute arbitration agreements, CMS effectively reinforced the right to a jury trial granted to all citizens by the Seventh Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Now, the nursing home industry has filed a lawsuit against CMS in a desperate attempt to overturn the new rule.  The lawsuit challenges CMS’ rule prohibiting nursing homes’ use of pre-dispute arbitration agreements, which are designed to avoid accountability when nursing homes abuse and neglect residents.  As attorneys who have represented victims of abuse and neglect in nursing homes and their family members since the 1990s, we can tell you that these cases are far too common.  Instead of working to provide better care to nursing home residents, the nursing home industry chose to file a lawsuit in a last-ditch attempt to be able to continue to use pre-dispute arbitration agreements.  It is ironic that the nursing home industry has filed a lawsuit that seeks to deprive residents and their family members of their right to file a lawsuit when a resident is injured or killed as a result of abuse or neglect in a nursing home.  That is the textbook definition of hypocrisy.

Lawsuits brought by so-called “whistleblowers” are also referred to as qui tam lawsuits.  The phrase “qui tam” is an abbreviation of a Latin phrase meaning “he who sues in this matter for the king as well as for himself.”  In a qui tam lawsuit, an individual, known as the relator, brings a case on the Government’s behalf, alleging  that the Government has been defrauded out of money.  The Government, not the relator, is considered the real party-in-interest.  If the Government succeeds and recovers money from the wrongdoer, the relator receives a percentage of the Government’s recovery.  The False Claims Act, codified at 18 U.S.C. § 286, 18 U.S.C. § 287, and 31 U.S.C. § 3279, allows private parties to file qui tam or whistleblower lawsuits.  Most states have similar whistleblower laws.   Whistleblower lawsuits are an effective and powerful means for whistleblowers to assist the Government in stopping various kinds of fraud, such as Medicare and Medicaid fraud, fraud by defense contractors and other contractors who sell products to the Government, and other types of fraud that have a negative financial impact on the Government.  If the lawsuit succeeds, the private party, or relator, who brought the suit initially may receive anywhere from 15% to 30% of the Government’s recovery.  Because these cases often involve millions and sometimes, billions of dollars, whistleblower lawsuits can be very lucrative.

As an example, take the case in which Tenet Healthcare, which owns hospitals across the U.S., including Tenet subsidiaries that operated hospitals in Georgia and South Carolina, agreed recently to pay more than $516 million to the Government in settlement of a whistleblower lawsuit.  Tenet Healthcare was accused of conspiring to pay kickbacks and bribes to several clinics that were operating in Georgia that targeted Hispanic, expectant mothers and directed them to Tenet hospitals for their deliveries.  Tenet made claims to Medicaid for the services that were provided to these undocumented foreigners.  It was also alleged that Tenet’s hospitals used contracts that were shams to try to cover up the payments of kickbacks to the clinics for the referrals of thousands of undocumented, pregnant patients.  Medicare and Medicaid laws, as well as anti-kickback laws, bar hospitals from paying clinics, doctors or others for steering patients to them for treatment.  The whistleblower who brought the lawsuit using private attorneys was the former Chief Financial Officer at a Tenet hospital in Georgia.  He will receive approximately $84 million from the recovered funds for his role in bringing the case.

Other examples of significant recoveries by whistleblowers include a former sales executive for pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline who filed a qui tam lawsuit alleging off-label or unapproved marketing of several of the manufacturer’s drugs.  That case was part of several whistleblower lawsuits against the manufacturer which resulted in a then record settlement of $3 billion in 2012.  In another similar case involving a drug manufacturer, a former sales representative of Pfizer, Inc., brought a qui tam lawsuit, alleging the manufacturer engaged in off-label marketing of its painkiller, Bextra.  The claims involved Pfizer’s marketing of the drug for unsafe and potentially dangerous uses.  In that case, Pfizer paid $1.8 billion as part of a settlement with the Government for Medicare fraud.  Whistleblower lawsuits have been filed against large nursing home chains, alleging that the nursing homes billed Medicare and Medicaid for services that were not provided to residents.  These cases resulted in large recoveries by the Government and large rewards to the relators.  In a case involving a defense contractor that was allegedly defrauding the Pentagon, the Government recovered $88 million as a result of the whistleblower lawsuit.  The whistleblower in that case was a former manager for the defense contractor.  His reward for being the whistleblower was 21.5% of the Government’s recovery, which totaled almost $19 million.