$4,208,000 Verdict Involving Personal Injury

posted on:
January 11, 2008

author:
Staff

November, 2006 – A Calhoun County jury returned a $4.2 million dollar verdict for Daniel Olive and Jeffrey McWilliams. Mike Crow of Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis and Miles, P.C. and Mark Andrews of Morris, Cary, Andrews & Talmadge of Dothan, Alabama, tried a week long case against Fed-Ex Freight East, Inc.

The Plaintiffs in this case were subcontractors who were installing a communication satellite at a truck depot. While installing the satellite, one of the plaintiffs stepped backwards through a skylight that was the same color as the tin roof. McWilliams, his co-worker, was on the ground and attempting to catch or break Olive's fall. Both were injured and one suffered a brain injury (three subdural hematomas).

Evidence was presented at trial that there were two prior falls on the same roof through a skylight one year prior to the Plaintiff's incident. The Defendant made four inspections a year of the roof. Six years had elapsed between the first fall and the trial and the Defendants have failed to eliminate the skylight hazards as required by OSHA regulations. The jury heard the facts and awarded $4.2 Million.

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Cab guard case prompts warning labels on products

posted on:
February 17, 2017

author:
LaBarron Boone

If “heavy truck cab guard” is searched on Google, more than 1.5 million results appear. And, at least on the first page, none of those results will tell you that many of them—if not most—do not work, although a majority of trucks on the road use the devices.

What does it look like when a cab guard, which as its name suggests, is intended to protect the truck cab during a crash, fails to do so? It usually results in severe injury and often death. This was the scenario in a case filed on behalf of Larry Albritton’s family. He was killed Oct. 7, 2013, while driving a log truck when his load shifted, causing the log truck to roll over and crash. When the load of logs shifted forward in the crash, they breached the truck’s cab and struck Mr. Albritton, resulting in his death.

Few people know the aluminum guards are often too weak to save a driver’s life. Thousands of log trucks use cab guards that are worthless for protection.

The guards attach to the backs of 18-wheelers pulling flat beds, trailers and log trailers and should function to prevent shifting cargo from hitting the cab of large trucks. However, as I discovered, that’s not the reality. Many are not strong enough to withstand the movement of even one log on a log truck, much less the scores that are usually placed on them.

In a quest to increase profits, cab guard manufacturers often choose to use aluminum rather than something stronger like steel, which would not sacrifice safety, without accurately testing the consequences of the decision. For instance, one brand of cab guard available for purchase through the “heavy truck cab guard” Google search states, “All Cab Racks are tested to uniform static resistance.”

In technical terms, it is saying its ability to protect a driver was tested while the truck was not moving. No wreck is static; one log could cause a failure. Cab guard manufacturers’ shortcuts continue to prove costly for consumers who believe they are protected.

However, as a result of Mr. Albritton’s case, which resulted in a $16.8 million verdict from a Lowndes County, Alabama, jury in January 2016, two of the cab guard manufacturers now say on their websites that cab guards should not be used as safety devices on log trucks. In fact, when clicking on a cab guard on one company’s website, a warning box appears stating the device will not prevent serious injury or death. The warnings are a welcome step in the right direction for protecting unsuspecting log truck drivers who think they are safe.

* * *

For more information on heavy truck cab guards and their defects, contact LaBarron Boone of Beasley Allen’s Personal Injury/Product Liability Section by email at LaBarron.Boone@BeasleyAllen.com.

Sources:
Google
Southern Injury Lawyer – Cab Guards
Beasley Allen

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J&J and Jansen Pharmaceuticals look to expand uses for Invokana despite growing lawsuits

posted on:
February 16, 2017

author:
Danielle Mason

As lawsuits move forward over Johnson & Johnson’s Type 2 diabetes medication Invokana, the pharmaceutical giant’s subsidiary Jansen Pharmaceuticals, which manufactures the drug, hopes clinical trial results will be enough to earn it clearance later this year for use in treating diabetic patients’ heart problems.

Invokana is a prescription medicine that is used along with diet and exercise to lower blood sugar. It is normally taken in combination with another drug, like Metformin or Glucophage, to decrease insulin resistance, because Invokana alone does not lower blood sugars enough to make it an effective single agent for the treatment of diabetes.

When the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Invokana in 2013, it required Jansen to conduct a randomized controlled trial evaluating Invokana’s cardiovascular risks. Jansen launched that clinical trial seven years ago, called Canagliflozin Cardiovascular Assessment Study (CANVAS/CANVAS-R), which is expected to wrap up later this year, according to ThePharmaLetter. The trial includes as many as 10,000 patients living with Type 2 diabetes.

One part of the trial has measured the effect of Invokana on patients’ major adverse cardiovascular events including cardiovascular death, non-fatal myocardial infarction and non-fatal stroke. Janssen hopes that the results will allow it to add an indication to reduce the risk of cardiovascular death in adult patients with Type 2 diabetes, like Jardiance (another drug in the same class as Invokana).

The cardiovascular indication may be a pipe dream for Janssen. Invokana squeaked through the FDA approval process by an 8:7 vote. The FDA Advisory Committee was concerned that during the first month of clinical trials for Invokana, 13 participants receiving the drug had a heart attack or stroke, compared to only one in the placebo group.

Invokana has also been associated with a number of other serious side effects, including diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). DKA is a type of acidosis that develops when insulin levels are too low or during prolonged fasting that can lead to difficulty breathing, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, confusion and unusual fatigue or sleepiness. A recent edition of the Jere Beasley Report noted that from March of 2013, when the FDA approved it, to October of 2015, the agency received 101 reports of confirmable cases of acute kidney injury, some requiring hospitalization and dialysis. In approximately half of the cases, the acute kidney injury occurred within only one month of starting the drug.

In December, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation consolidated 55 cases from across the U.S. into a Multidistrict Litigation (MDL). It also appointed U.S. District Judge Brian R. Martinotti to preside over the MDL that is pending in New Jersey federal court. The cases allege Jansen failed to properly test the Type 2 diabetes drug and warn of the risks and consequences of using it. Beasley Allen lawyer Danielle Mason was appointed to the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee and will help guide the process of pursuing justice for those suffering from J&J and Jansen’s failures.

* * *

Lawyers in Beasley Allen’s Mass Torts Section are investigating claims on behalf of individuals and families injured by Invokana and Invokamet, specifically cases involving diabetic ketoacidosis, acute kidney injury, heart attack and stroke. If you would like more information, contact Danielle Ward Mason, a lawyer in our Mass Torts Section. She can be reached at 800-898-2034 or by email at Danielle.Mason@beasleyallen.com.

Sources:
ThePharmaLetter
Seeking Alpha
Jere Beasley Report

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False Claims Act civil penalties increased

posted on:
February 15, 2017

author:
Archie Grubb

The False Claims Act (FCA) provides a means by which whistleblowers may file suit on behalf of the United States to recover for fraud committed against the federal government. Earlier this month, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced the penalties under the False Claims Act would once again increase.

The increases are pursuant to The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015. The Act requires annual re-indexing of FCA penalties for inflation. On Feb. 3, 2017, the minimum per-claim penalty increased from $10,781 to $10,957, and the maximum per claim penalty increased from $21,563 to $21,916. These adjusted civil penalty amounts are applicable only to civil penalties assessed after Feb. 3, 2017, whose associated violations occurred after Nov. 2, 2015.

Increasing the FCA’s civil penalties strengthens the government’s negotiating position in FCA cases. This strengthened position helps the government secure additional settlements and larger civil penalties. The penalty increase does more than keep up with inflation; it also is a vital tool that returns additional taxpayer money to the Treasury so it can be spent in the way it was intended.

The war on fraud is fought not by soldiers, but by ordinary citizens. The FCA provides citizens the opportunity to combat fraud accompanied with monetary incentives and statutory protection. Whistleblowers who file FCA claims are eligible for a reward up to 30 percent of the amount recovered by the government. Additionally, the FCA provides protection from retaliation against whistleblowers.

* * *

Are you aware of fraud being committed against the federal government, or a state government? If so, the FCA can protect and reward you for doing the right thing by reporting the fraud. If you have any questions about whether you qualify as a whistleblower, please contact an attorney at Beasley Allen for a free and confidential evaluation of your claim. There is a contact form on this website, or you may email one of the lawyers on our whistleblower litigation team: Archie Grubb, Larry Golston, Lance Gould or Andrew Brashier

Source: Office of the Federal Register

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Beasley Allen welcomes new attorney, Dr. Margaret M. Thompson

posted on:
February 13, 2017

author:
Staff

Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis & Miles, P.C., is pleased to announce the addition of Dr. Margaret M. Thompson, Of Counsel in the firm’s Mass Torts Section, where she primarily focuses on the talcum powder litigation. More than 27 studies have shown that the genital use of talc significantly increases the risk of ovarian cancer. Thousands of cases are filed in federal and state courts around the country with the number expected to grow. As a former OBGYN with more than 25 years’ experience, Dr. Thompson incorporates her clinical experience and medical expertise in her legal practice.

Dr. Thompson joined the firm in December 2016. After leaving her private medical practice in 2008, she began her legal career in transvaginal mesh litigation. Dr. Thompson has also worked as a medical and legal consultant, focusing on obstetrics and gynecology; reproductive law and policy; and the regulation of medical devices.

Dr. Thompson is a graduate of the Duke University School of Medicine, where she also completed her residency and was named Outstanding Surgical Resident. After years of a successful medical practice in Austin, Texas, Dr. Thompson graduated from the University of Texas School of Law with her Juris Doctorate and from the University of Texas School of Public Health, where she earned a master’s degree in public health policy.

She has received numerous medical awards, including Texas Monthly’s Super Doctor, and was named Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst and Young.

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At Beasley Allen, there is never a fee for legal services, unless we collect for you. Contact us today by filling out a brief questionnaire, or by calling our toll free number, 1-800-898-2034, for a free, no-cost no-obligation evaluation of your case.

California clear to place health warning label on Roundup

posted on:
February 10, 2017

author:
John Tomlinson

category:
Toxic Torts

In 2014, farmers sprayed almost a pound of glyphosate—the active ingredient in brand name Roundup weed killer—on every acre of cultivated farmland in the United States. It is by far the most widely used herbicide in America, according to recent data findings, and its popularity could pose potential health risks.

At the end of last month, California’s Environmental Protection Agency (Cal/EPA) cleared a major hurdle in its quest to list glyphosate as a human carcinogen, according to U.S. News & World Report. A state judge ruled against Monsanto, the manufacturer of Roundup, saying the state can require it to label its weed killer as a possible cancer threat.

Glyphosate, a phosphonate compound that has no color or smell, has been linked to cancers, particularly non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and other health and environmental concerns, prompting Cal/EPA’s action. However, Monsanto insisted throughout court proceedings that it poses no risk to humans and the proposed label would have “immediate financial consequences for the company,” according to U.S. News.

Monsanto sued California saying officials illegally based their decision for the warning label on the International Agency for Research on Cancer’s (IARC) classification of glyphosate as a “probable human carcinogen.” The agency is a branch of the U.N. World Health Organization based in Lyon, France, which the suit claimed violated the state constitution by delegating authority to an unelected foreign body, according to the news source. However, the state maintained the IARC is the “gold standard” for identifying human carcinogens and is used by other states and the federal government as a source for health information.

Cal/EPA is waiting until the judge officially issues a formal decision, but if the proposed label is carried out as expected, California would be the first state in the U.S. to order the label be placed on Roundup, and Monsanto, which is expected to challenge the ruling, would have a year to comply.

* * *

Beasley Allen lawyer John Tomlinson, a member of our Toxic Torts section, is actively investigating cases where landscapers, farmers, groundskeepers or commercial gardeners used commercial grade Roundup and developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He can be reached at 800-898-2034 or john.tomlinson@beasleyallen.com.

Sources:
Environmental Sciences Europe
U.S. News & World Report
IARC
EcoWatch

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At Beasley Allen, there is never a fee for legal services, unless we collect for you. Contact us today by filling out a brief questionnaire, or by calling our toll free number, 1-800-898-2034, for a free, no-cost no-obligation evaluation of your case.

FERA expands conspiracy liability under the False Claims Act

posted on:
February 8, 2017

author:
Andrew Brashier

The Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act of 2009 (FERA) was signed into law by President Obama on May 6, 2009. This law not only changed the False Claims Act (FCA), but also retroactively overturned a Supreme Court case. Likewise, Congress crafted FERA’s 31 U.S.C. § 3729(a)(1) amendment to have taken effect on June 7, 2008, the date the Supreme Court decided Allison Engine. By backdating the effective date of the FERA provision, Congresses rendered the unanimous Supreme Court decision worthless.

Before the FERA, a person was liable under the conspiracy provision of the FCA only if that person conspired to defraud the Government by getting a false or fraudulent claim allowed or paid. Looking to the language of the statute, the Supreme Court ruled in Allison Engine that 31 U.S.C. § 3729(a)(3) required proof that the defendant intended the false statement to be material to the Government’s decision to pay or approve the claim. The Court came to that decision due to the phrase “by getting a false or fraudulent claim allowed or paid,” which is how the FCA read prior to FERA.

By removing the phrase “by getting a false or fraudulent claim allowed or paid” from 31 U.S.C. § 3729(a)(3), FERA significantly expanded liability under the conspiracy provision to include conspiracies to violate any provision of § 3729(a). Therefore, FERA greatly bolsters the FCA by allowing conspiracy claims to encompass not only regular false claims, but also reverse false claims.

A reverse false claim occurs when an entity defrauds the government in order to avoid an obligation to pay, as opposed to an entity defrauding the government in order to obtain some sort of payment. The former is known as a reverse false claim because the subject of the fraud flows opposite of the usual direction. After FERA, the court could hold one liable for conspiring to commit either type of fraud.

If you are aware of fraud or a conspiracy to commit fraud against the government, the FCA provides an avenue for you to act. The FCA contains a qui tam provision that permits individuals to not only blow the whistle on fraud but also provides incentives for individuals to step forward and report fraud. These incentives include 15 to 30 percent of the funds recovered by the government, as well as protection against retaliation. The monies recovered through the FCA replenish the tax pool and serves to deter other companies from committing the same fraud.

* * *

Are you aware of fraud being committed against the federal government, or a state government? If so, the FCA can protect and reward you for doing the right thing by reporting the fraud. If you have any questions about whether you qualify as a whistleblower, please contact an attorney at Beasley Allen for a free and confidential evaluation of your claim. There is a contact form on this website, or you may email one of the lawyers on our whistleblower litigation team: Archie Grubb, Larry Golston, Lance Gould or Andrew Brashier

Sources:
Kelley Drye
Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act of 2009, Pub. L. No. 111-21 (2009)
553 U.S. 662 (2008)

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More exploding devices reinforce the need to improve lithium-ion battery safety

posted on:
February 2, 2017

author:
William Sutton

category:
Toxic Torts

Only one month into the New Year and already the U.S. has witnessed recalls of products powered by exploding lithium-ion batteries. Such mounting evidence only reinforces the need to improve the batteries’ safety.

Early in January, Boosted recalled all standard range battery packs for its second-generation Dual + electric skateboards, according to PC Magazine. The company discovered that while the skateboard is in use, water can enter the battery pack, causing it to short-circuit. Shortly after the skateboards began shipping last September, customers reported two separate incidents of smoke coming from the lithium-ion battery packs. However, it is not clear how many of the boards were equipped with the bad batteries.

Similarly, Hewlett Packard (HP) announced later in the month it was expanding the initial recall of lithium-ion batteries powering its notebook computers. Righting Injustice reported that HP recalled the first 41,000 last June and with the expansion, C|Net explains that HP will recall more than 100,000 batteries. The technology blog, citing the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), says the recall is a result of “fire and burn hazards” the batteries pose if they overheat.

Recently, Beasley Allen discussed the CPSC’s plans to review the battery industry, improve battery safety and bridge the gap between healthy market competition and upholding safety standards. Elliott Kaye, CPSC chairman, reiterated these heightened efforts in a statement last week. Kaye noted that the agency is working with Samsung to incorporate more safeguards in the design and manufacturing process. However, the changing consumer safety landscape under the new administration will likely affect this new agency charge.

The paradox of constantly evolving technology powered by unsafe batteries has placed this generation at a crossroads. Massive recalls and regular reports of devices catching fire and exploding demonstrate an urgent need to review and revise the standards for lithium-ion batteries.

* * *

If you would like more information about lithium-ion batteries, you can contact Will Sutton, a lawyer in Toxic Torts Section. He can be reached at 800-898-2034 or by email at William.Sutton@beasleyallen.com.

Sources:
PC Magazine
Righting Injustice
C|Net
Beasley Allen
U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission

Free Legal Consultation
At Beasley Allen, there is never a fee for legal services, unless we collect for you. Contact us today by filling out a brief questionnaire, or by calling our toll free number, 1-800-898-2034, for a free, no-cost no-obligation evaluation of your case.

$55 Million Health Care Fraud Scheme Discovered at Two Brooklyn Medical Clinics

posted on:
February 1, 2017

author:
Larry Golston

Brooklyn, New York, based medical clinics Prime Care on the Bay (Prime Care) and Bensonhurst Mega Medical Care, P.C. (Bensonhurst) have pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit health care fraud. Prime Care and Bensonhurst, along with several individuals associated with the two clinics, submitted $55 million in false and fraudulent claims to Medicare and Medicaid.

The defendants’ scheme involved subjecting patients to medically unnecessary health services provided by unqualified staff. The defendants further admitted that, in order to cover up the fraud, occupational and physical therapists falsified patient charts and medical billings. Moreover, one of the defendants admitted they paid the patients to attend these clinics and the defendants opened a bank account for the sole purpose of laundering funds and paying these illegal kickback payments.

In the government’s war against fraud, the False Claims Act (FCA) has become an invaluable weapon. The FCA contains a qui tam provision that permits individuals to not only blow the whistle on fraud but also provides incentives for individuals to step forward and report fraud. These incentives include 15 to 30 percent of the funds recovered by the government, as well as protection against retaliation. The monies recovered through the FCA replenish the tax pool and serves to deter other companies from committing the same fraud.

One of the largest areas of FCA litigation is health care fraud. For example, since January 2009, the government has recovered $19.3 billion from health care fraud actions alone. The qui tam provision provides an avenue for ordinary citizens to aid the government in detecting and deterring health care fraud. Furthermore, the FCA both protects and rewards those brave individuals who step forward and report fraud.

* * *

Are you aware of fraud being committed against the federal government, or a state government? If so, the FCA can protect and reward you for doing the right thing by reporting the fraud. If you have any questions about whether you qualify as a whistleblower, please contact an attorney at Beasley Allen for a free and confidential evaluation of your claim. There is a contact form on this website, or you may email one of the lawyers on our whistleblower litigation team: Archie Grubb, Larry Golston, Lance Gould or Andrew Brashier

Source: U.S. Department of Justice

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At Beasley Allen, there is never a fee for legal services, unless we collect for you. Contact us today by filling out a brief questionnaire, or by calling our toll free number, 1-800-898-2034, for a free, no-cost no-obligation evaluation of your case.

Volkswagen, Audi, Porsche 3.0-liter settlements to compensate consumers, hold VW accountable for emissions conduct

posted on:
February 1, 2017

author:
Staff

category:
Fraud

San Francisco, CALIF. – On Jan. 31, 2017, settlement agreements were filed by the consumer plaintiffs and the Federal Trade Commission in the Volkswagen “Clean Diesel” Marketing, Sales Practices, and Products Liability Litigation that, if approved, will provide owners and lessees of Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche 3.0-liter diesel vehicles substantial cash compensation in addition to buybacks, trade-ins, government-approved emissions modifications or compliant repairs, depending on the generation of vehicle. The proposed settlements were filed in the Northern District of California as part of the multidistrict litigation (MDL) currently overseen by Judge Charles R. Breyer.

Beasley Allen lawyer W. Daniel “Dee” Miles, III, served as Class Counsel for this litigation and assisted in the settlement. “This 3.0-liter VW engine settlement completes the federal regulatory and class action part of the ‘dieselgate’ saga for VW and is an historical and exceptional recovery for consumers and taxpayers,” Miles said. “The extraordinary efforts of the lawyers, the government and the court in this case resulted in an unprecedented settlement in record time. We are proud to have played a role in this benchmark litigation.”

Upon final court approval, consumers’ options and compensation will depend on whether their vehicles are classified as Generation One or Generation Two. The engine designs for each generation are different, with different prospects for emissions compliance. The cash payments in addition to these options are only available to those who participate in the class action settlement, which covers approximately 75,000 3.0-liter TDI vehicles.

  • Generation One (Model Years 2009-2012): These vehicles – like 2.0-liter vehicles – cannot be repaired to be compliant with their originally certified emissions standards. Therefore, owners will have the option of a buyback, trade-in, or an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)- and California Air Resource Board (CARB)-approved emissions modification plus substantial cash compensation ranging from $7,755 to $13,880. Lessees will also be eligible to have their lease terminated and receive cash compensation.
  • Generation Two (Model Years 2013-2016): Government regulators believe these newer vehicles can be repaired to fully comply with the original emissions standards to which they were certified. If this is achieved and approved by the EPA and CARB, Generation Two owners will receive this repair plus substantial cash compensation ranging from $7,039 to $16,114. Lessees are also eligible for this repair plus cash payment. Consumers may choose to receive half this payment upfront, before any repair is approved, and the other half upon repair completion.

If the EPA and CARB do not approve an emissions compliant repair by deadlines set out in the class settlement agreement, a process will follow in which Class Counsel can ask the Court to order a buyback, or other remedies if the repair results in reduced performance as detailed in the settlement agreement.

Under the consumer agreements, Volkswagen will pay approximately $1.2 billion in combined compensation, assuming an Emissions Compliant Repair becomes timely available for all Generation Two vehicles. If such repairs do not become available by deadlines detailed in the settlement, Volkswagen has agreed to pay approximately $4.04 billion dollars. Under the related DOJ 3.0-Liter Consent Decree, Volkswagen will pay an additional $225 million to mitigate the environmental effects of excess NOx emissions.

“This agreement builds on the successes of the 2.0-liter settlement by providing substantial benefits to both consumers and the environment,” said Elizabeth Cabraser, Court-appointed Lead Counsel and chair of the 21 member Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee, which negotiated the settlement on behalf of class members. “We are another step closer to achieving our goal: providing consumers fair value for their vehicles, while repairing or removing illegally polluting vehicles from the road. We are appreciative of the guidance provided by Judge Breyer; the Settlement Master, former FBI Director Robert Mueller; and the efforts and cooperation of DOJ, EPA, FTC and CARB.”

A settlement resolving claims against Bosch was also filed with the court. Under this agreement, which includes 2.0-liter and 3.0-liter TDI owners and lessees, Bosch will pay $327.5 million. Typical 2.0-liter owners will each receive $350 and 3.0-liter owners will each receive $1,500 in addition to their Volkswagen settlement payments. For example, a combination of Bosch and 3.0-liter repair payments for Generation Two owners would range from $8,539 to $17,614; Generation One owners who choose a buyback would receive combined payments from $26,255 to $58,657. Class members will receive a separate notice about how to obtain the Bosch payments.

The settlements are subject to court approval. If preliminary approval is granted after a hearing currently scheduled for Feb. 14, 2017, class members will receive more information about the terms of the settlement. At that time, consumers can also visit www.VWCourtSettlement.com to enter their vehicle’s VIN to learn if they have an eligible vehicle and see their expected compensation amount. Additional information can also be found on the Court’s website: http://www.cand.uscourts.gov/crb/vwmdl.

Affected consumers do not need to take any action at this time. When and if the Court grants final approval, the claims process will open to eligible owners, lessees and post-September 18, 2015 sellers without delay from any appeals, and payments will commence shortly after. The ultimate deadline to file a claim will be December 31, 2019. For purposes of calculating buyback payments, under the settlement, vehicle value remains frozen as of September 18, 2015 (the date the emissions allegations became public), meaning its value generally will not depreciate while consumers go through the claims process.

In October 2016, VW settled similar claims affecting vehicles with 2.0-liter diesel engines, agreeing to pay out nearly $15 billion to affected vehicle owners, believed to be the largest automobile settlement in history.

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Millions still at risk from faulty Takata airbags

posted on:
February 1, 2017

author:
Chris Glover

When people hear the word airbag, most immediately connect it to safety. An airbag’s purpose after all is to protect, to keep everyone as safe as possible during a vehicle crash.

As the recall on 46 million airbags manufactured by Japanese automotive supplier Takata Corp. proves, that is unfortunately not always the case. Approximately 29 million vehicles in the United States are not as safe as they should be due to manufacturer error, an error Beasley Allen witnessed the effects of firsthand during four cases settled for undisclosed amounts last year.

Each case involved a Takata airbag inflator exploding and causing injuries instead of ensuring protection.

For example, Angelina Sujata was driving her 2001 Honda Civic in 2012 at about 25 miles per hour near Columbia, S.C., when the vehicle in front of her slammed on the brakes. The next thing she remembered was a sharp pain in her chest, which was sliced open to the bone. In another case, Jennifer Griffin’s airbag exploded in her Honda Civic while driving in Orlando, Florida, and sent a two-inch piece of shrapnel flying. When highway troopers found Griffin with blood gushing from a gash in her neck, they were baffled by the extent of her injuries.

Through a series of conscious decisions, Takata and Honda risked lives for their bottom lines. Takata opted to use ammonium nitrate, a compound that destabilizes over time particularly if exposed to high temperatures and humidity, to reduce costs despite other airbag manufacturers refusing to use it over safety concerns. Takata then continued to pursue its use despite internal red flags.

In a January 2016 deposition taken as part of another personal injury suit against Takata and Honda, Mark Lillie, a former propellant engineer at Takata in the 1990s, when the company first began using the unstable compound in its airbags, testified that there was “[n]ever any evidence, never any test results, never any test reports, nothing to substantiate they had overcome the phase stability problem.” Lillie later was interviewed and stated he told Takata that someone would be killed if the design went forward.

Though we now know Takata manipulated tests and data to make its airbags appear safer than they were, Honda was alerted to the safety issues as early as 2004, when an Accord airbag in Alabama exploded and shot shrapnel throughout the vehicle interior. Honda settled four lawsuits before issuing a small recall in late 2008. Within just six months Griffin’s airbag, which the recall did not cover, exploded. By August 2009, four injuries and a death were linked to ruptured airbag inflators in Honda vehicles.

Takata and Honda commissioned a study (that per contract could not be linked to them) in 2012 that concluded ammonium nitrate was too sensitive to changes in pressure to use in airbags. Despite extensive knowledge that ammonium nitrate was not suitable for airbag inflators, Honda did not expand the recall of its airbags until 2014. The recall eventually affected vehicles manufactured by BMW, Chrysler, Daimler Trucks, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru and Toyota.

On Jan. 13, Takata agreed to plead guilty to criminal wrongdoing and pay total of $1 billion in criminal penalties stemming from the company’s fraudulent conduct, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Still, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates only about 12.5 million of the 46 million defective airbags have been repaired. Therefore, millions of lives continue to be at stake until all airbags are repaired and can properly keep vehicle occupants safe.

* * *

For questions concerning the Takata airbag recall, contact Beasley Allen personal injury and product liability lawyer Chris Glover at 800-898-2034 or chris.glover@beasleyallen.com.

Sources:
Righting Injustice
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
NHTSA
U.S. Department of Justice

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At Beasley Allen, there is never a fee for legal services, unless we collect for you. Contact us today by filling out a brief questionnaire, or by calling our toll free number, 1-800-898-2034, for a free, no-cost no-obligation evaluation of your case.
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