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Georgia Injury Lawyer Blog

 

Thousands of U.S. soldiers and veterans are believed to have suffered hearing loss because of defective earplugs sold by 3M Company to the 3M-Dual-Ended-Combat-Arms-Earplugs-300x195U.S. government.  3M’s defective earplugs, known as the Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs (version 2), did not function as 3M claimed they would function.  The earplugs were not long enough to be inserted properly into a soldier’s ears.  The design prevented a snug fit in the ear canal of the user, causing the earplugs to become loose and exposing the user to dangerous levels of noise.

These earplugs were originally created by a company called Aearo Technologies, which was acquired by 3M in 2008.  The earplugs were sold to the military from 2003-2015.  It is believed that more than 1 million service members were issued 3M’s earplugs while engaging in various combat missions during foreign wars.  These defective 3M earplugs have never been recalled and therefore, could still be in use by soldiers and other government employees.

Aearo Technologies was allegedly aware of the defect in the earplugs as early as year 2000, when it began testing the effectiveness of the earplugs.  Earplugs like the Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs are sold with a Noise Reduction Rating (NRR), which is a unit of measurement used to determine the effectiveness of hearing protection devices.  The higher the NRR number associa

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Earlier this month, a nursing home resident who had been in a vegetative state for eleven years gave birth inside Hacienda HealthCare, a nursing home in Phoenix, Arizona.  Caregivers at the nursing home have told investigators they were shocked and had no idea the resident was pregnant.  A frantic 911 call on December 29, 2018 by a nurse at the facility reported that a 29-year-old woman had given birth inside the facility. The nursing home staff tasked with providing care for the woman said they were unaware that she was pregnant until she started to moan right before giving birth on Dec. 29.   When police arrived, they found a baby that had been born to a woman who was “unable to move and unable to communicate.”  The nursing home specializes in the care of people with intellectual disabilities.  Court records show that the woman had been a resident of Hacienda HealthCare since 1992.

Phoenix police have already executed a search warrant seeking DNA samples from male staff members at the Hacienda HealthCare center.  The Arizona Department of Health Services and the state’s Department of Economic Security are also working with police in the investigation.  Sgt. Tommy Thompson of the Phoenix Police Department stated that the patient “…. was not in a position to give consent to any of this. This was a helpless victim who was sexually assaulted.”

Shortly after the assault, Hacienda HealthCare announced that it had hired former Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley to additionally conduct an “exhaustive” internal review.  “Mr. Romley will have unfettered access to every facet of Hacienda’s business — including all the records related to this matter,” said a statement from Hacienda. “We will do everything we can to aid this review and, once it is complete, to make sure this unprecedented situation never, ever happens again.”

Special-Focus
Nursing home facilities in Georgia, and around the country, are evaluated on a routine basis by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), as well as state agencies that regulate nursing homes. The purpose of the evaluations is to determine whether nursing homes are ensuring resident safety by complying with federal and state nursing-home care regulations. Nursing homes may only participate in Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement programs when they are abiding by these regulations. When facilities perform poorly, they are closely watched by CMS. Those facilities that receive the worst evaluations and provide the poorest care to their residents are known as “Special Focus Facilities.” These nursing homes receive special attention from regulators and must show improvement in their quality of care or they will lose their Medicare and Medicaid funding. If you or a loved one require nursing home care, you should know which nursing homes are considered to be among the worst in the country.  The most recent special focus facilities list is available here.

Currently, there are only a couple of Georgia nursing home facilities on the current list, including Pleasant View Nursing Center in Metter, and Chulio Hills Health and Rehab in Rome.  They are both shown on the list as “facilities that have shown improvement” since first being named a special focus facility.

If you have a loved one staying at a nursing home that is a Special Focus Facility, or you are thinking of sending your loved one to one of these facilities, there are several things you may want to do to help ensure his or her safety and well-being:

NBC News reported this week on the number of nursing home patients who are transferred to hospitals and subsequently die from sepsis, a potentially life-threatening complication of an infection.  Sepsis often occurs when an infection is untreated or treated inadequately.  Sepsis occurs when chemicals released into the bloodstream to fight the infection cause inflammation throughout the entire body instead.  Severe cases of sepsis can lead to septic shock, which is characterized by very low blood pressure, and is a medical emergency.

A private healthcare data firm, Definitive Healthcare, conducted a special analysis of data related to nursing home patients who were transferred to hospitals and later died.  The analysis revealed that approximately 25,000 patients a year had developed sepsis while in nursing homes across the U.S.  Definitive Healthcare looked at Medicare billings from 2012 through 2016, and concluded that the treatment of this life-threatening condition costs Medicare more than $2 Billion a year.   These numbers show that sepsis is a huge public health problem in the U.S.

Sometimes, a nursing home patient can develop a pressure sore on the hip or tailbone.  If that patient is incontinent, there is an increased risk that the pressure sore will become infected.  The longer the infected pressure sore goes untreated, or inadequately treated, the greater the risk of the patient developing sepsis.  If the sepsis is not treated promptly and aggressively, the patient can go into septic shock, and die.  Nursing home patients, who often have other comorbidities and conditions, have an increasingly difficult time surviving sepsis.  It is not just pressure sores that can lead to sepsis in nursing home patients.  Sepsis can develop in bedridden patients who are suffering from pneumonia, urinary tract infections, or other infections.  What can start out as a relatively small, isolated infection can quickly become a big infection and cause the death of a nursing home patient.

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A number of lawsuits have recently been filed as a result of injuries associated with the vaccine Zostavax, manufactured by Merck & Co. This vaccine was designed to reduce the risk of getting herpes zoster, a painful and debilitating condition commonly known as “shingles.” Zostavax is typically recommended for people aged 60 years and older by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the vaccine is normally given in a one-dose shot. However, the lawsuits allege that Merck failed to warn that the virus in the vaccine caused, among other things, shingles, brain damage and death.

Over 36 million Americans have been injected with Zostavax since it was first approved by the FDA in 2006.  In the last two years, there have been thousands of reports to the FDA of serious adverse event reports regarding the vaccine, including reports of 36 deaths. In the lawsuits, plaintiffs alleged Merck failed to adequately warn patients and healthcare providers about the risk of injuries that the vaccine can cause, and that Merck knew that the vaccine that they manufactured was inherently defective and that it was unreasonably dangerous as designed. The injuries known to be associated with the vaccine include cardiovascular injury, joint and muscle pain, rashes, pneumonia, vision and hearing loss, cellulitis, lymph node disease, actinic keratosis, severe cutaneous disease, post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN) weakness, numbness, facial paralysis, brain inflammation (encephalitis), and, tragically, death.

If you received the Zostavax vaccine and have experienced any of the above-listed injuries call the Suthers Law firm at 1-800-320-3284, or fill out a contact form at the firm’s website to discuss your potential Zostavax lawsuit.  The firm has represented many victims injured by dangerous drugs and defective medical products. Such lawsuits are pursued under a contingency fee basis, meaning that there are no attorney fees unless a recovery is obtained.  If you or a loved one has suffered one of the serious injuries listed above, you should not delay in consulting with an attorney who is experienced in handling dangerous drug cases.

 

elbowSuthers Law Firm is investigating cases of patients who were forced to undergo revision surgery due to defects associated with the DePuy Synthes elbow implant.  The DePuy elbow implant components have been recalled from the global market out of concern that the radial stem could loosen at the stem-bone interface following implantation. At the time of the recall, more than 50,000 of the elbow implants had been manufactured and distributed by DePuy.

There are multiple conditions that can cause elbow pain and disability which lead patients and their doctors to consider elbow joint replacement surgery. Rheumatoid arthritis, degenerative joint disease, post-traumatic arthritis, severe fractures, and instability are the most common conditions that lead to elbow replacement.  Often times, the outcomes following an elbow replacement are good.  However, this has not been the case for many of those individuals implanted with the DePuy Synthes Elbow.

Patients who received the DePuy Synthes Radial Head Prosthesis System have reported the following complications:

The Beaufort County South Carolina Sheriff’s Office has reported that a resident of a nursing home on Hilton Head Island was sexually assaulted by an employee of the nursing facility.  The assault took place at Life Care Center of Hilton Head, located at 120 Lamotte Drive.

Beaufort County Investigators were called to Life Care Center of Hilton Head on the afternoon of Wednesday May 2, 2018, in reference to an assault that had taken place the previous night.  According to the Sheriff’s report, a nurse said she went to a patient’s room around 1:15 p.m. Wednesday and found her “upset and crying.”  When she asked what was wrong, the patient told the nurse that she had been sexually assaulted.

Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Capt. Bob Bromage said a suspect in the assault had been identified as a nursing home employee, and that person is now on suspension from his position at Life Care Center of Hilton Head.  Because the investigation is ongoing, very few details have been released to the public about the assault that took place inside Life Care Center of Hilton Head.

A recently filed lawsuit claims breast implants manufactured by Mentor Worldwide, a Johnson & Johnson subsidiary, caused an Ohio woman to develop a rare form of cancer known as anaplastic large cell lymphoma, or ALCL.  Johnson and Johnson purchased Mentor in 2009 for more than $1.1 billion.

According to the complaint, Renee Cashen, 45, of Ashville, Ohio, had breast implant surgery in February 2008. About eight years later, she noticed a lump under her right armpit and a biopsy determined she had anaplastic large cell lymphoma.  She had surgery to remove the MemoryGel® SILTEX® implants, made by Mentor, as well as infected lymph nodes. She subsequently underwent chemotherapy for a condition that has become known as Breast Implant-Associated Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma, or BIA-ALCL.

Ms. Cashen is one of many women across the country who has experienced health problems related to implants. In March of 2018, the FDA issued a warning to individuals with breast implants alerting them to the potential link to BIA-ALCL. As of September 30, 2017, the FDA had received a total of 414 medical device reports (MDRs) of BIA-ALCL, including the death of nine patients.

Today, a growing number of Americans live in assisted living facilities.  These facilities are intended to be a bridge between living at home and residing in a nursing home.  In an assisted living setting, a resident can still live with a high degree of independence, but can receive help managing their medications and performing activities of daily living, like bathing, dressing and eating.

In a shocking report released earlier his month, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) detailed their study that found the federal government lacks even basic information about the quality of assisted living services provided to low-income people on Medicaid.  The report titled “Improved Federal Oversight of Beneficiary Health and Welfare is Needed,” was done at the request of a bipartisan group of senators including Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), Susan M. Collins (R-Maine), Claire C. McCaskill (D-Missouri), and Elizabeth Warren, (D-Massachusetts).  The senators ordered the study in July 2015 to better understand federal and state oversight of these facilities, which increasingly receive federal Medicaid dollars but are not subject to the same federal rules as nursing homes.  According to the study, states reported spending more than $10 billion a year in federal and state funds for assisted living services for more than 330,000 Medicaid beneficiaries, an average of more than $30,000 a person.  Despite the tremendous amount of federal funds flowing to companies operating assisted living facilities, there is very little government oversight of the industry.

“The GAO report found that 26 states could not report to GAO the number of ‘critical incidents’—serious health and safety problems that could include physical assaults, sexual abuse, unexplained death, unauthorized use of restraints, medication errors and inappropriate discharges or evictions—occurring in assisted living facilities in their state,” a statement from Sen. Warren’s office said. “But the 22 states that did track this information used different definitions of critical incidents, further complicating effective oversight of such facilities.”  While all states consider physical, emotional or sexual abuse as a critical incident, some states did not identify other problems. For instance, seven states didn’t indicate potential harm or neglect, such as medication errors, as a critical incident. Three states didn’t consider unexplained death as a critical incident.  Of the 22 states that did track critical incidents, the study found that there were more than 22,900 incidents in one year, including the physical, emotional or sexual abuse of residents.  In many cases, the report found that when states did identify a significant problem at a facility, that information was not made available to the public.

The United States Government will pay $42 million to the parents of a young child who suffered a permanent brain injury, resulting from improper use of forceps during his delivery.  After a six day trial in Federal Court in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, the verdict for $42 million was rendered by U.S. District Court Judge Sylvia Rambo.  The parents sued the Federal Government in a malpractice claim involving an Ob/Gyn physician, who was employed at a federal facility.  The lawsuit claimed that the doctor improperly used forceps on the baby’s head during the delivery, which caused skull fractures and bleeding on the brain that resulted in permanent brain damage.  Evidence presented during trial showed that the now five year old boy cannot speak, read or write and eventually will require a motorized wheelchair to get around.

This was what is known as a Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) case.  The FTCA is a federal statute that allows private parties to sue the United States in Federal Court for torts committed by persons acting on behalf of the Government.  For example, if a doctor or nurse employed by a Veterans Administration hospital or a hospital on a military base commits malpractice, the patient would need to bring a medical malpractice claim under the FTCA.  Other examples of potential negligence claims against the Government include someone injured in an auto accident involving a Government owned vehicle, and someone injured due to a fall caused by negligent maintenance in a post office or other Government-owned facility.

Suing the Government under the FTCA is different than suing a private company or individual.  There are a number of hoops that you have to jump through before you can even file the lawsuit. There are also certain limitations in lawsuits against the Government that you don’t have in lawsuits against private parties.  While you are entitled to a trial under the FTCA, it is a “bench trial,” meaning the judge renders the decision and not a jury.  Fortunately for the victims in the above-referenced malpractice case, the judge recognized the serious and permanent nature of the child’s injuries and the extraordinary expenses that would be required to provide for the child’s future medical and life care needs.