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

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.

Dr. Paul Harnetty, an Ob/Gyn who practiced in Georgia from 2003 until 2012, was convicted last month by a Wyoming jury of sexually assaulting two of his female patients.  Harnetty began practicing medicine in Wyoming in 2012.  It did not take long before a number of his Wyoming patients accused him of sexual assault and abuse.  In February of 2016, a disciplinary complaint was filed against Dr. Harnetty by the governing medical board in Wyoming.  In January of 2017, Dr. Harnetty was arrested and charged with twelve counts of sexual assault, resulting in the recent conviction on two of those charges.  Dr. Harnetty awaits sentencing.

Sadly, there was a long trail of allegations against Harnetty while he was practicing Ob/Gyn medicine in Georgia.  Harnetty was investigated by the Georgia Composite Medical Board.  Nurses who had worked with the doctor reported to the Board that the doctor had committed highly unusual acts on patients while they were delivering babies.  The Medical Board never disciplined Harnetty publically and the Board’s investigation was kept confidential.  Dr. Harnetty gave up his hospital privileges at a Georgia hospital in 2010, but the hospital refused to say why.  As a result, Harnetty was able to leave the State of Georgia with a clear record and obtain a license to practice medicine in Wyoming.  The District Attorney in Wyoming who prosecuted Dr. Harnetty stated, “There had been red flags on this guy forever.”

Regrettably, the system in place that shields and protects doctors who are charged with sexual abuse of patients is broken.  The Georgia Board responsible for licensing and disciplining doctors refuses to comment on what it knew about Dr. Harnetty or whether he was ever disciplined by the Board.  Georgia law allows the Board to discipline doctors in private.  This is the so-called “code of silence.”  For example, the Georgia Board’s investigator had interviewed a labor and delivery nurse, who reported that she had filed a complaint of sexual harassment by Dr. Harnetty with the hospital in 2007.  The nurse reported that while in a patient’s room, Dr. Harnetty walked up beside her and grabbed the nurse’s bottom.  Other nurses also told the Board’s investigator about Harnetty touching them inappropriately, making lewd comments, and sexually harassing them.  If the Georgia Board did anything about these allegations, it was never made public.  Had the Georgia Board decided to discipline Dr. Harnetty publicly, the alleged sexual abuse that occurred in Wyoming may have been prevented.

Nursing-Home-Evacuation-300x169As anyone who lives in the coastal area of the southern United States knows, we have dealt with several major hurricane evacuations over the last couple of years that have forced residents out of their homes.  While these evacuations can be an ordeal for anyone, it is especially challenging to evacuate those vulnerable citizens who are residents of nursing homes and other assisted living facilities.  Though with proper planning, nursing homes can and should have a plan that protects their residents in the event of a mandatory hurricane evacuation.

Sadly, we saw a lack of preparation by nursing homes time and time again during the coverage of the major hurricanes of 2017.  For instance, ten elderly nursing home residents in Hollywood, Florida died after being kept inside a facility that essentially turned into an oven when Hurricane Irma knocked out the facility’s air conditioning for three days.  These residents were left inside the building, despite the fact there was a hospital with working electricity just across the street.

There were also horrifying images out of Texas during Hurricane Harvey that showed nursing home residents sitting in several feet of unsanitary flood water.  Luckily in the Texas case, the residents ultimately had a (somewhat) happy ending, as all 18 of those affected by the flood water were airlifted from the flooded La Vita Bella assisted living facility in Dickinson, Texas, and subsequently relocated to other facilities across the state.  However, these residents should have never had to go through such a traumatic experience.

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Suthers Law Firm continues to investigate claims of those seriously injured by Ethicon Physiomesh, a device used in hernia repair procedures. A hernia is a bulge of body tissue that occurs through an opening within the abdominal wall muscles. A hernia, which can occur in any location on the abdominal wall, is caused by weakness or thinness of the abdominal wall, and is often repaired using surgical mesh, such as Ethicon Physiomesh.  Unfortunately, there have been numerous serious complications reported across the country associated with Ethicon’s Physiomesh product.

In May of 2016, Ethicon announced a global market withdrawal of the Physiomesh Flexible Composite Mesh product.  The removal of the mesh product from the market came after two European databases that showed Physiomesh was associated with higher rates of hernia recurrence and revisions compared to similar patches when used in laparoscopic ventral hernia repairs.

As of October 13, 2017, there were 116 lawsuits pending in the Multi-District Litigation (“MDL”) proceeding in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. MDL proceedings are meant to streamline and consolidate numerous cases filed against the same defendant.  These suits allege that the use of Ethicon’s Physiomesh in hernia repair procedures resulted in complications such as pain, infection, hernia recurrence, adhesion, intestinal blockage, mesh migration, mesh shrinkage, and the need for revision surgeries. There are also allegations of permanent internal organ damage as a result of complications associated with Physiomesh.