Two Beasley Allen Verdicts Listed As Being Among Highest Verdicts In The Nation
Beasley Allen secured two of the top plaintiff’s jury verdicts last year, earning a coveted spot on Top Verdict’s Top 50 Verdicts in the United States in 2022. Top Verdict recognizes law firms and lawyers in the U.S. who have obtained the highest jury verdicts, settlements, or bench awards in the country, either in state or federal courts in a particular area of law.
Beasley Allen lawyer Parker Miller, working from our Atlanta office, obtained a $160 million verdict in a wrongful death mass shooting case against Sony Music Holdings Inc., for its role in failing to protect patrons at a 2017 concert in downtown Atlanta. Darren Summerville of the Summerville Firm LLC worked with Parker in the case. Their verdict was the 25th highest plaintiff’s jury verdict of the year in 2022.
Beasley Allen lawyers Clay Barnett, Mitch Williams, Rebecca Gilliland, and Dylan Martin received a $102.6 million verdict against General Motors LLC on behalf of a class of consumers who claimed the motor company hid an engine defect that caused problems with tens of thousands of SUVs and trucks. Adam Levitt, Christopher Strombaugh, John E. Tangren, Daniel R. Ferri, Mark M. Abramowitz, and Joseph Frate of DiCello Levitt; Jennie Anderson of Andrus Anderson LLP; and Anthony Garcia of AG Law P.A., worked with our lawyers in the case. The verdict was the 37th highest of the year.
Sources: Top Verdict and Reuters
THE TALC LITIGATION
J&J Facing More Than 11,000 New Talc Suits After 2-Year Litigation Delay
Johnson & Johnson (J&J) and its consumer subsidiaries are facing over 11,000 new talcum powder lawsuits as the talc litigation ramps back up after being stayed for the last two years. As we have previously reported, J&J split off its talc liabilities into a subsidiary called LTL (Legacy Talc Liabilities) in October 2021, after which LTL immediately declared bankruptcy. Once the bankruptcy was underway, all litigation, including the filing of new complaints, was stayed.
Even after its fraudulent bankruptcy attempt was dismissed by the Third Circuit, J&J continued to use bankruptcy as a delay tactic by filing a second time. Since the bankruptcy court threw out J&J’s second attempt at filing bankruptcy in late July, there have been thousands of additional lawsuits filed. These new cases represent plaintiffs who have been forced to wait, with many suffering physically and all emotionally, to assert their claims due to J&J’s delays.
Prior to the bankruptcies, there were over 40,000 complaints filed nationwide. With the addition of the cases filed over the last two months, J&J is now facing over 51,000 complaints that its talc-based body powders caused cancer. Cases that had statutes of limitations run during the bankruptcy were given a limited time to file after the bankruptcy was dismissed, leading to the rapid increase in filings over the last two months.
With the bankruptcy stay lifted, Johnson & Johnson is now facing multiple jury trials in various state courts throughout the country in 2024 and beyond, as well as bellwether trials expected to be set in the MDL in late 2024 and early 2025.
Beasley Allen lawyers have been directly involved from the very beginning in the Talc litigation. I was on the trial team, along with Ted Meadows and David Dearing, that obtained a jury verdict against J&J in a trial held in St. Louis. After several weeks of trial, the jury verdict was rendered on February 22, 2016.
Now, over seven years later, the battle seemed to finally be nearing an end, but J&J appears to be getting ready to file its third fraudulent bankruptcy. If that happens, it will be another bad faith abuse of the bankruptcy court by J&J.
The public should be alarmed that a huge company like J&J could have been responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent women and then attempt to use a fraudulent bankruptcy to avoid their legal and moral obligations.
Andy Birchfield, who heads up our Mass Torts Section, has been involved in the Talc Litigation from the outset. We are including below a statement by Andy that was sent on October 23 to all lawyers in other firms who are handling J&J talc cases. Andy wants to make sure that everybody knows what J&J is up to and the need to stand up against this company and its fraudulent tactics.
U.S. Senators Condemn J&J’s Talc Bankruptcy Efforts
U.S. Senators from both parties doled out blistering criticism to J&J over the bankruptcy efforts it’s trying to use as a shield against personal injury claims related to its asbestos-tainted talc products, which have allegedly sickened consumers for decades.
In the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearing, Evading Accountability: Corporate Manipulation of Chapter 11 Bankruptcy, Chair Dick Durbin (D-IL) likened J&J’s bankruptcy efforts to those used by a growing number of corporations in recent years, including Georgia Pacific and the Sackler family, owner of Purdue Pharmaceuticals.
Faced with tens of thousands of claims for compensation caused by harmful products and practices, corporations are forming shell companies where they can shift certain liabilities. They then declare Chapter 11 on the shell company to minimize payouts.
J&J is using this tactic as it faces paying billions of dollars to claimants who say the asbestos in J&J talc products caused ovarian cancer and mesothelioma. An appeals court and a bankruptcy judge have shot down J&J’s bankruptcy strategy twice.
Beasley Allen lawyer Leigh O’Dell, who co-chairs the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee in the J&J talc multidistrict litigation, says that the Senate’s probe demonstrates the abusive practices giant corporations are taking to protect their profits. Leigh added:
J&J and other giant corporations will try virtually anything to avoid responsibility when their products cause massive amounts of harm and suffering.
Sen. Durbin said J&J’s “Texas two-step” bankruptcy strategy denies consumers injured by the company’s products their day in court. It also robs individuals grappling with fatal diseases of precious time while subjecting them to lengthy legal proceedings that they may not survive.
Sources: PR Newswire, U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary
Standing Against J&J’s Abuse Of Bankruptcy
As many of you know, over the last two years, our firm and many others have successfully stood against Johnson & Johnson’s attempt to abuse the bankruptcy system and strip plaintiffs of their right to a trial by jury. If J&J had been successful, it would have paved the way for any profitable company facing mass tort liabilities to shut the courthouse doors to their victims, creating the most significant threat to the civil justice system in recent memory.
After the dismissal of two previously filed bad-faith bankruptcies, as unimaginable as it seems, J&J’s legal department is contemplating a third bankruptcy bid to avoid accountability to talc cancer victims. This has been reported in numerous news articles based on statements made by Erik Haas, Worldwide Vice President for Litigation, during J&J’s earnings call. To even consider another bankruptcy attempt is a tremendous disservice to the thousands of customers and their families who trusted J&J to provide safe products. It is also a major disservice to J&J shareholders.
In refusing to accept responsibility and provide fair compensation to victims of its Baby Powder, J&J’s legal department chose the ill-advised path of a Texas Two-Step bankruptcy. By continuing to pursue this ill-fated, bad-faith bankruptcy strategy, J&J, one of the wealthiest and most powerful companies in the world, only magnifies and multiplies its talc liability problem. Mike Papantonio, with Levin Papantonio Rafferty, a leader in mass torts:
J&J’s lawyers have taken this once-great company down the path of gross deception and denial to the depths of bankruptcy – not once but twice. Now they are threatening a third time. The lack of integrity and human decency is appalling.
The Third Circuit Court of Appeals rebuffed J&J’s first bankruptcy ploy in January of this year. At that point, J&J again had the opportunity to act responsibly, enter good faith negotiations, and provide fair compensation to cancer victims. Instead, the company responded by cobbling together a small band of lawyers, with tens of thousands of non- meritorious and unverified cases, and once again attempted to abuse the bankruptcy system to force through a settlement plan over legitimate claimants, an effort that was subsequently denied by the court.
Had J&J’s bankruptcy ploy succeeded, our clients would have been victimized yet again not only by suffering from a deadly cancer at the hands of its product – but also by being denied their right to a trial by jury and being forced to accept pitifully inadequate compensation through the bankruptcy plan.
A key reason that J&J’s second attempt failed is that enough of us stood together in unity, which was (and is) a powerful force to thwart J&J’s efforts.
One lesson that is evident through J&J’s twice-failed bankruptcy efforts is that bankruptcy is a weapon that must be kept out of reach of powerful and extraordinarily profitable major corporations.
Now is the time for us to stand together against J&J and say we will never again negotiate with hugely profitable companies in bankruptcy – it would be unfair to our clients. Let’s declare firmly that we will not negotiate with J&J in bankruptcy. Not now. Not ever.
We reject any efforts by J&J to abuse the bankruptcy system and foist on victims a so-called resolution that takes away their constitutional right to a jury trial and prevents them from obtaining fair compensation.
We appreciate your steadfast support. We are better standing together so that our clients receive the justice they deserve in the fight ahead.
It is essential that all lawyers involved in the talc litigation on the side of victims stand up and be counted in the ongoing battle against a huge company that will do anything to deny justice to its thousands of innocent victims.
Beasley Allen Talc Litigation Team
Beasley Allen lawyers Leigh O’Dell and Ted Meadows head the Beasley Allen Talc Ovarian Cancer Litigation Team and they have been directly involved in all phases of the talc litigation. The team handles claims of ovarian cancer linked to talcum powder and mesothelioma cases. Several key team members continue to focus on Johnson & Johnson’s blatant abuse of the bankruptcy system. That battle is not over. The team continues to battle for our clients and to see that they obtain justice. The following Beasley Allen lawyers are members of the Talc Litigation Team:
Leigh O’Dell, Ted Meadows, Kelli Alfreds, Ryan Beattie, Beau Darley, David Dearing, Liz Achtemeier, Jennifer Emmel, Lauren James, James Lampkin, Caty O’Quinn, Cristina Rodriguez, Brittany Scott, Charlie Stern, Will Sutton and Matt Teague.
Charlie Stern and Will Sutton are on the litigation team, but they exclusively handle mesothelioma claims. Charlie and Will are looking at industrial, occupational, and secondary asbestos exposure resulting in lung cancer or mesothelioma and claims of asbestos-related talc products linked to mesothelioma.
THE ASBESTOS LITIGATION
The Bankruptcy Trust System And Asbestos Litigation
At Beasley Allen, our approach to mesothelioma cases is to actively litigate each case in the best possible jurisdiction, with the goal being to maximize client recovery. While the underlying injury, mesothelioma, is always the same in these cases, each client’s situation is different. Sometimes, it’s very different.
But a consistent aspect of each of these cases takes place outside of the courtroom and involves filing bankruptcy trust claims on behalf of our clients. The asbestos bankruptcy trust system was established so that if companies that sold asbestos products and harmed people filed for bankruptcy, then victims would still have recourse to receive compensation. The settlements from these trusts, depending on the case, can sometimes provide meaningful compensation. But that is not a guarantee. In fact, the compensation can be far from adequate or even meaningful.
It is crucial that your mesothelioma lawyer understands these trusts, the evidence required to be eligible, applicable filing deadlines and state-by-state disclosure requirements. Trust awards from these filings can add up to high figures. But often the awards can be very low. In a recent case, a Beasley Allen mesothelioma client was eligible for just one of these trusts for a $15,000 settlement. Thankfully, her litigation case resulted in a $5,000,000 settlement. In another case, before the first litigation settlement was even obtained, Beasley Allen lawyers obtained over $500,000 in bankruptcy trust settlements. These two cases were very different, but the facts of the second case allowed Beasley Allen lawyers to affirmatively provide eligibility evidence increasing the trust settlement total.
The uniqueness of each mesothelioma case requires mesothelioma attorneys to know how to evaluate each case, the trusts, and ensure all recovery avenues are considered. At Beasley Allen, we do this on each mesothelioma case.
If you have questions or need help with a case, contact Charlie Stern or one of the lawyers on our litigation team.
The Beasley Allen Asbestos Litigation Team
Our Asbestos Litigation Team is still taking cases around the country. Case filings in the asbestos litigation continue to increase nationwide. The Beasley Allen Asbestos Litigation Team is led by Charlie Stern in our Dallas, Texas, office. Charlie has years of experience in asbestos litigation and is a perfect fit to lead the team. Other team members include Will Sutton and Cindy Lopez. Rhon Jones, who heads our Toxic Torts Section, also works with the team. If you need assistance with cases involving asbestos products, contact one of the team members by using the contact form at the bottom of this page.
THE CAMP LEJEUNE LITIGATION
Camp Lejeune Litigation Update
There is a tremendous amount of activity currently surrounding the Camp Lejeune Justice Act (CLJA) and the related claims litigation. We will give a brief update on our firm’s involvement in this ongoing area of our practice.
Less than a year remains to file Camp Lejeune administrative claims. The time period for filing claims is now past the halfway point. The good news is that the court in the Camp Lejeune litigation is moving these cases along toward litigation. Specifically, the court issued a case management order that establishes a procedural framework for the progression of these cases that uses established multidistrict litigation procedural protocols. To promote uniformity, the court instructed that both a Master Complaint and Short Form Complaints be utilized by claimants.
The court established a system to address and develop groupings of injuries for discovery and trial. These injury “tracks” are set to be in three waves. Track One will focus on bladder cancer, kidney cancer, leukemia, Parkinson’s disease, and non-Hodgkins’s lymphoma. Both parties will select ten cases to develop for each injury totaling 20 cases per injury. The court set a clear schedule to develop track two and three injuries, which are currently unknown, in an expedited timeline.
It’s important to note that this litigation was set up and controlled by an Act of Congress. All litigation under the Act is to be handled by a North Carolina federal court. Therefore, all cases are in the Eastern District of North Carolina.
An Elective Option for settlement of certain claims has been introduced by the government. Administrative claims must be filed first with the Navy before a lawsuit on behalf of your client can be pursued. Reports are that nearly 100,000 of these claims have been filed.
Rhon Jones, who heads up our Toxic Torts Section, serves on the Plaintiffs Executive Committee for this litigation. Rhon and the Beasley Allen lawyers on our litigation team are ready to help you with any aspect of your client’s administrative claim or lawsuit.
As the court works to move these cases forward, remember the time period to file an administrative claim is already more than halfway through. All administrative claims must be submitted by August 10, 2024 – less than 10 months away.
If you need more information, or need help with a claim, contact a lawyer on our Camp Lejeune Litigation Team.
Beasley Allen Camp Lejeune Litigation Team
Beasley Allen lawyers are hard at work in the Camp Lejeune litigation. The number of cases being handled by the firm continues to dramatically increase. There are numerous Beasley Allen Camp Lejeune webinars addressing the various issues in this litigation that are available at BeasleyAllen.com.
Currently, our firm has 12 lawyers and a large number of staff personnel working on this litigation, including Toxic Torts Section Head Rhon Jones. You can contact any of the lawyers on our litigation team if you need help with a claim or have questions. The lawyers include co-leads Leslie LaMacchia, and Julia Merritt, along with Will Sutton, Ryan Kral, Trisha Green, Ken Wilson, Matt Pettit, Tucker Osborne, Marion Brumma and Khadiga Carr.
SOCIAL MEDIA LITIGATION
Judge Rules Against Social Media Giants In Important Ruling
A California state judge ruled last month that negligence and fraud claims on behalf of adolescents and parents can proceed against social media companies Meta (Facebook and Instagram), Snapchat, TikTok and YouTube. This was a huge loss for the companies and a definite win for children and their parents.
This first-of-its-kind litigation seeks to hold these tech giants responsible for the physical harm youth face because of social media addiction. These cases allege that the platforms are all driven by features meant to maximize profits by manipulating and addicting kids and adolescents to social media.
In her 89-page order, Judge Carolyn B. Kuhl of the Superior Court of California, Los Angeles County, allowed the plaintiffs’ negligence claim to proceed. The order stated:
Plaintiffs here allege that the effect of defendants’ algorithms and operational features on plaintiffs’ frequency and intensity of use of the social media site was not only foreseeable but was in fact intended. And plaintiffs allege that defendants were on notice through their own research and independent medical studies that this intended frequency and intensity of use of defendants’ platforms risked adverse health effects for the minor users.
Plaintiffs seek compensation for the harmful health effects of their addiction to these platforms, including depression, anxiety, insomnia, eating disorders, self-harm, and suicide. The court found:
It is sufficiently certain, based on the allegations of the master complaint, that plaintiffs suffered injury.
The court also allowed the plaintiffs’ claims that the Meta defendants fraudulently concealed the health harms of its Facebook and Instagram platforms to move forward. That part of the order is extremely important.
Beasley Allen lawyer Joseph VanZandt serves as co-lead counsel in the California consolidated cases against social media companies. He is also on the Plaintiff Steering Committee for the federal multidistrict litigation. Beasley Allen lawyers served in major roles to help draft plaintiffs’ complaint and oppose defendants’ dismissal efforts.
Joseph had this to say about the court’s order and its effect on the overall litigation:
Beasley Allen is pleased with the Court’s decision and the opportunity to obtain justice for the thousands of injured children and parents we represent. This decision is a key step forward into holding these companies accountable for the damage they have caused to youth. We look forward to continuing our advocacy on behalf of our clients.
Beasley Allen began filing social media personal injury lawsuits nationwide in 2022 for adolescents harmed by social media addiction. Additionally, our lawyers represent numerous school districts across the country in claims of nuisance and negligence resulting from social media’s harmful impact on education systems.
The plaintiffs are represented by Joseph VanZandt from our firm, Emily Jeffcott of Morgan & Morgan PA, and Brian J. Panish, Rahul Ravipudi and Jesse M. Creed of Panish Shea Boyle Ravipudi LLP.
TikTok Fined $367 Million For Failing To Protect Children’s Personal Information
The recent onslaught of litigation against social media platforms is not limited to the United States. The European Union recently announced adoption of its final decision after a two-year inquiry into TikTok’s failure to comply with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), fining the social media platform $367 Million. The GDPR requires certain protections for personal data belonging to minors using the platform. The ruling includes both a fine, a reprimand, and a requirement that the data processing be in compliance with European law within three months.
Ireland, the lead regulator for TikTok in the EU, began investigating the social media platform in September 2021, focusing on profile settings being public by default for underage children, among other things. The public default setting and whether that setting is adequately disclosed is a major concern because anyone (whether on the platform or not) can view public postings. Even more concerning, though, is the “Family Pairing” function, allowing adult users to link accounts with a minor, does not have adequate verification that the adult is a parent or guardian. Family Pairing allows direct messaging with the minor, so the inability to identify the relationship between the adult and the minor is shocking.
Although the initial findings did not include a violation of the GDPR’s fairness principle, the final, binding decision includes a finding that TikTok breached that principle through failing to adequately warn minors of the exposure of their personal information. In fact, the finding goes further, referencing “dark patterns” used to “discourage [users] from exercising [their] rights to privacy.”
The findings and fines are limited to the actions of TikTok only as they relate to a very small window of time—just five months. And this is not the first time TikTok has been fined by European entities. The U.K. fined the company the equivalent of $15.8 million for data protection law violations, including misuse of the personal data of minors.
Beasley Allen lawyers are involved in and leading the charge to hold social media platforms responsible for the past and ongoing harm to children. These mounting fines are just further demonstrations of these social media platforms’ failure to protect our youth. If you have any questions, or need help with a case, contact Melissa Pricket, Director of our Mass Torts Section, by using the contact form at the bottom of this page. She will have a lawyer in our Mass Torts Section who is working on this litigation respond to you.
The Beasley Allen Social Media Personal Injury Litigation Team
Joseph VanZandt, who leads our firm’s Social Media Personal Injury Litigation Team, is co-lead counsel for the Judicial Council Coordination Proceeding (JCCP) for the plaintiffs in California state court. Joseph is also a member of the Plaintiffs Steering Committee, helping lead the federal social media multidistrict litigation (MDL).
If you need help on a case, or more information on the personal injury part of our social media litigation, contact a lawyer on the firm’s Social Medial Litigation Team by using the contact form at the bottom of this page. Members of the team are:
Joseph VanZandt, who heads the team, Jennifer Emmel, Suzanne Clark, Clinton Richardson, Sydney Everett, Davis Vaughn and Seth Harding. Andy Birchfield, who heads our Mass Torts Section, also works with the team.
Class Actions At Beasley Allen Involving The Social Media Litigation
The class action aspect of the Social Media Litigation is handled by lawyers in our Consumer Fraud & Commercial Litigation Section. Class actions are separate from the personal injury aspect of their litigation. If you need more information, or need help on a class action case, contact Michelle Fulmer, Section Director, by using the contact form at the bottom of this page. She will have a class action lawyer respond to you.
MOTOR VEHICLE LITIGATION
Federal Bronco Probe Expands To Other Ford Vehicles
Federal auto safety regulators are widening their investigation into “catastrophic engine failure” linked to faulty intake valves in some newer model Ford and Lincoln trucks and SUVs.
The problem first became apparent last year in Bronco SUVs, Ford’s widely anticipated comeback vehicle. The federal probe has since grown to include model-year 2021 and 2022 Ford and Lincoln vehicles equipped with 2.7-liter or 3.0-liter V6 EcoBoost turbocharged engines. The investigation now covers about 790,000 vehicles.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) Office of Defect Investigations says the vehicles under investigation now include Ford F-150 pickup trucks on top of its Bronco, Edge, Explorer SUVs and Lincoln Nautilus and Aviators SUVs.
The alleged defect stems from faulty intake valves. Investigators found that multiple contributing factors can cause the valves to fracture and the engines to fail under normal driving conditions without the ability to restart. NHTSA’s investigation first focused on engine failures in the 2.7-liter Broncos in May 2022 after the agency received letters from three owners of the vehicles.
Since then, Ford has received 861 engine failure complaints from drivers, warranty claims, and reports of engine replacements across all model vehicles with the affected engines. There were no reports of crashes or injuries linked to the problem.
NHTSA said it is working to determine how frequently the engine failures occur in these vehicles and what Ford is doing to address the problem in its manufacturing process. The agency’s engineering analysis indicates Ford will likely have to recall the vehicles.
Sources: Associated Press, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and Autoweek
Lawyers in our firm’s Personal Injury & Products Liability Section handle cases involving deaths and serious injuries in motor vehicle crashes. They have seen all sorts of fact situations that caused accidents with serious injuries and deaths. An example is a case referred to as a “wheel-off” case. These cases usually result in serious injuries and deaths. They involve a wheel-off incident crash where a wheel comes off a commercial truck or trailer while the truck is traveling on a highway.
A wheel-off accident, also known as a wheel separation case, is an accident involving a commercial vehicle where the entire wheel assembly of a truck or trailer – meaning its wheel, tire and even a portion of the axel or drivetrain – breaks free from the vehicle and hits another car or person. A wheel-off accident can cause devastating damage, including serious and even fatal injuries. The impact is severe because of the speed of the striking object.
The question becomes whether the wheel-off accident was preventable. In virtually every incident, the answer is yes. If the vehicle involved is a commercial motor vehicle (CMV), that truck, its driver, and the company for whom the driver is employed or engaged is subject to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs). The FMCSRs require every CMV driver to do pre-trip inspections of his truck or trailer.
The FMCSRs also require companies to do routine inspections and maintenance on their trucks and trailers. These regulatory-mandated inspections apply to the inspections of wheels and tires. An inspection by a properly trained CMV driver or by a maintenance person should reveal if there is a safety problem.
Quite often, the issue involves a lug nut that has not been properly torqued when placed on the lug bolt. The over or under-torquing of the lug nut will almost always show signs, including rusting around the area, wearing of the lug, lug nut, or the rim. The inspection can also spot uneven wearing of the tire itself.
The improper torquing may result in that lug nut breaking or coming loose. It’s also possible that the over-torqued lug nut may stay in place while the other lug nuts work themselves loose.
This problem is one that can be easily remedied by CMV companies and drivers simply doing routine and pre-trip inspections and, when necessary, making appropriate repairs. The dangers can also be significantly reduced by companies properly training maintenance personnel on the appropriate way of torquing lug nuts.
Most typically the issue with the wheel-off cases involves a failure to inspect. However, it may be that the tire also failed because of material issues. The material used in tires, lugs, and rims are standard, but an inspection might include looking to see if the metallurgical state of the metal was sufficient to perform under the expected stress of a load. Another possibility might include issues with the impact gun being incorrectly calibrated. Most CMV wheels should be torqued at 450 to 500 foot-pounds.
If the impact gun, the method most commonly used in tightening lug nuts, is not properly calibrated, the torque ratio may be off, which could be the cause of the tire/wheel failure.
Lastly, some CMV companies and drivers will use roadside services or tire maintenance personnel while on the road. These companies may be a focal point in the event a wheel comes off a truck or trailer and causes serious injury or death to an oncoming driver.
If you have any questions or need help with a case, contact Ben Locklar, a lawyer in our firm’s Personal Injury & Products Liability Section, by using the contact form at the bottom of this page.
A Look At Defective Seatbelt Cases
Lawyers in our firm are currently investigating and pursuing a number of cases involving various seatbelt-related defects. Many auto accidents involve ejection from the vehicle or the occupant moving around unrestrained inside the vehicle upon impact. The most common misconception in these instances is that the injured person was not belted; however, this is often not the case. We know from manufacturer recalls, government investigations, and our own litigation, that seatbelts- even when used properly, can fail.
Seatbelts fail in many ways, including false latching of the buckle, spooling out of the belt, retractor failure and pretensioner failure. False latching occurs when the belt buckle feels, looks, and sounds buckled despite not actually locking into place. Belt spooling occurs when all or part of the seatbelt webbing releases during an accident. A retractor failure prevents the belt from locking tightly around the occupant, thus doing away with the safety aspect of the belt altogether. Pretensioner failure occurs when the mechanism intended to tighten slack in the belt malfunctions or fails, thus failing to provide proper seatbelt geometry during a crash.
Every instance of the types of seatbelt failure mentioned above can result in serious injury or death. Lawyers in our firm’s Personal Injury & Products Liability Section have handled a large number of cases involving seat belt failures.
Beasley Allen lawyers continue to aggressively work in cases, not only to represent our clients, but also to help prevent these types of injuries from occurring and to ensure that manufacturers are held responsible. If you or a loved one was seriously injured by a seatbelt failure, or if you have any questions about this matter, contact Sloan Downes, Director of our Personal Injury & Products Liability Section, by using the contact form at the bottom of this page.
Car Wrecks, Deposition Preparation, And Two Rules Lawyers All Need To Follow To Help Maximize Value In Their Cases
All trial lawyers handling cases for injured clients have a duty to maximize the value in their cases. This applies to cases involving car wrecks. A trial lawyer always strives to maximize value in these cases for their client. There are a number of rules to be followed in the pretrial discovery phase. Unfortunately, these rules are broken frequently. We will discuss two rules that involve preparing for depositions of medical witnesses. Let’s take a look at the rules in the context of a motor vehicle accident with injuries.
First, a plaintiff’s lawyer must take the time to establish the testimony of their client’s treating physician(s) prior to deposition. Valuable testimony is established when the lawyer takes time to research the operative injuries at play in the medical literature. This will arm the treating physicians with opinions that they may agree with, but would not have necessarily recalled in a deposition without preparation.
For instance, while your treating physician may well know and agree that a client’s injury can cause future issues, they will appreciate the lawyer providing medical literature that the treating physician may elect to reference in their conclusions. A question could be something like this: “According to Such-And-Such medical group or organization, would this type of injury cause “X and Y” complications for a patient?” This testimony establishes the provider’s opinion in a broader body of research, bolstering the witness’ expertise and credibility. This would apply to both treating physicians and to expert witnesses.
Second, a plaintiff’s lawyer must always obtain all prior deposition testimony by the defense experts in a case. The power of such work cannot be understated. Plaintiff’s lawyers who take the time to track down an expert’s prior deposition transcripts will be rewarded with a wealth of knowledge from other lawyers’ hard work, impeachable opinions in black-and-white, and a degree of precision that will rattle the opposing side’s expert in cross-examination. This all adds up to a compelling jury presentation and – often – a powerful attack on the defense witnesses’ credibility.
Following these two rules will pay off for your client at trial. The lawyer who is actually trying the case must be involved in all pretrial discovery and that certainly includes the two areas discussed above.
Feds Concerned GM Cruise Cars Pose Pedestrian Safety Risk
Federal authorities last month opened an investigation into General Motors’ self-driving Cruise vehicles amid concerns that the cars aren’t showing sufficient caution around pedestrians.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) probe follows reports of the automated vehicles approaching pedestrians who are in or about to enter roadways, including crosswalks.
While nobody knows the actual number of such incidents, NHTSA has received two reports of GM Cruise cars striking pedestrians at very low speeds. The agency also knows of two other incidents from videos posted to the internet.
In one of the incidents, a pedestrian stepped onto the street in front of a Cruise vehicle. The self-driving car swerved and braked but still made contact with the pedestrian at 1.4 mph. In another incident, a regular vehicle to the left of a GM Cruise struck a pedestrian, throwing the person into the path of a Cruise vehicle, which took evasive action but still struck the individual.
According to NHTSA’s Office of Defects Investigation, the probe is trying to assess the extent and seriousness of the potential problem with the Cruise’s self-driving system and any safety risks it poses to pedestrians and others.
GM operates a total of 594 GM Cruise vehicles in Austin, Phoenix and San Francisco. The automaker acquired Cruise in 2016 in a push to expand its driverless vehicle technology and has continued to invest heavily in the subsidiary when many other companies are scaling back or abandoning autonomous vehicle research and development.
It isn’t clear whether NHTSA’s investigation will have any impact on Cruise development or operations.
Telematics In Trucking Litigation
The most precious commodity in the transportation industry is time and timeliness of deliveries. As consumer needs accelerate, so too does the need for fast and efficient shipping. Shipping and logistics companies are adapting through the use of advanced technology and data. Gone are the days of manually tracked shipping orders, written driver logs, and phone calls to distributors and drivers inquiring about loads.
Instead, today’s transportation industry relies heavily on real-time tracking of goods, trucks, drivers, and warehouses. This real-time data monitoring is widely known in the industry as “telematics.” Initially, the data was valuable to monitor where companies experienced delays or shortcomings in their shipping processes.
As the telematics technology continues to improve, it is being synced with warehouse and distribution automation to have orders timely packaged and ready for shipment and ensures receivers are efficiently offloading goods with little to no wasted time.
The telematics market for commercial vehicles was estimated to exceed $33 billion in 2022 and is predicted to grow significantly in the coming years. According to a report prepared by FleetForward, more than 700,000 companies were using some form of telematics with approximately 20 million commercial GPS devices used to monitor fleets, drivers, service workers and assets in 2020.
Currently, most large fleet shippers are using some form of telematics to monitor their fleets. Telematics companies use proprietary hardware and software with varying capabilities. Regardless of the provider, most telematics companies provide real-time GPS tracking of vehicles, electronic driver logs, and some level of vehicle monitoring such as fuel usage, engine diagnostics, and maintenance tracking.
Some of the telematics companies with the largest market share and names you may be familiar with are Geotab, Verizon Connect, Trimble, Samsara, Solera Omnitracs, and Keep Truckin. This list is not exhaustive, and new companies continue to form and jockey for market share.
The amount of data collected and stored by telematics companies is astounding. Samsara, one of the major players in the industry, reported collecting and storing “trillions of data points” for their customers in 2022 alone. Through the third quarter of last year, the stored data included 35 billion logged miles driven, 451 million hours of dash cam footage, 26 million digitized documents, 36 billion connections to the cloud, and 207,000 drivers using the app daily. Of course, the company markets these data points as ways to save time, fuel, and increase profits.
Our lawyers who handle trucking cases see these data points as discoverable information to help build a case.
It cannot be overstated how beneficial telematics data can be to building a case. Instead of relying on driver’s recounts of their route, speeds, whether they braked or had steering inputs just prior to collision, hours of service, etc., the telematics has already recorded and stored that information for you. Additionally, more and more telematics systems are incorporating driver dash cameras.
Many systems utilize both forward-facing and rear-facing cameras in the cab of the truck to show what the driver was seeing and doing at the time of a collision. Gathering the telematics information in discovery can vividly depict exactly what happened leading up to an accident with little inference or guesswork left to lead a jury astray.
The transportation and logistics industry is evolving at a rapid pace. The prevalence of telematics is just one indicator of that evolution. Telematics, if monitored and used appropriately, should benefit trucking companies both from an efficiency standpoint and from a safety perspective as well. In accident investigation and litigation, the data retrieved and stored can provide a clear advantage for those who understand the systems and put in the effort to get the data.
If you have questions or need help with a case, contact Sloan Downes, Director of the Personal Injury & Products Liability Section, and she will have a lawyer in the section respond. Sloan can be reached by using the contact form at the bottom of this page.
Sources: Fleet Forward and Samsara
Dangers Caused By Illegally Parked Commercial Motor Vehicles
Negligent parking of commercial vehicles on our highways creates hazardous conditions for other drivers on the road and can lead to catastrophic injuries and deaths. Pursuant to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), truck drivers must pull over to take required breaks or to conduct safety inspections. All too often, truck drivers opt to pull over on the shoulder of the road or on an exit ramp. Federal and state regulations prevent this type of illegal parking. For example, Georgia statutes state that commercial vehicles are prohibited from parking on the highways and the shoulders of highways.
However, if the driver pulls over in an emergency, the FMCSA has extensive regulations drivers must follow to reduce the risk of collision. Truck drivers must immediately activate the vehicle’s hazard warning signals, park as far off the highway as possible, and within a ten (10) minute period, place adequate warning lights and reflective signs at appropriate distances.
Parking along on-ramps poses a higher safety risk to motorists traveling down and attempting to merge. Such ramps prevent merging drivers from impeding ongoing traffic. It is extremely dangerous to have an 80,000-pound commercial vehicle parked directly beside the route cars use to merge at a high rate of speed.
These types of accidents often occur under conditions of inclement weather where visibility is low. Motorists in smaller vehicles have a hard time seeing the illegally parked trucks, and once they do, the trucks are difficult to avoid due to their size. When a motorist in that situation crashes into the truck, most of the damage is catastrophic due to underride. These trucks have such high ground clearance that most smaller vehicles run under them upon collision. The result can be horrific.
When a moving vehicle strikes a parked vehicle, folks assume that only one party could be at fault. However, the negligent or illegal actions of the truck driver in parking can be the cause of the accident. Regulations relating to parking commercial vehicles acknowledge the danger these trucks can create. If a driver blatantly creates such hazardous conditions by violating one of the regulations mentioned above, that driver will be held accountable.
If you need more information or need help with a case involving an illegally parked commercial truck, contact Sloan Downes, Director of our Personal Injury & Products Liability Section, by using the contact form at the bottom of this page. Sloan will have one of the lawyers who handles trucking litigation in the section respond to you.
Source: Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, O.C.G.A. § 40-6-203, 49 C.F.R. § 392.60)
PRODUCT LIABILITY LITIGATION
Propane Explosion Cases
Ben Keen, a lawyer in our Atlanta office, is currently investigating a propane gas tank explosion that left his client, a Georgia man, with first- and second-degree burns. The man had only purchased the propane tank about one month prior to the incident. Ben believes his client used the tank exactly as instructed.
The tank was securely screwed to a connector hose on a grill when the client turned the knob to ignite the grill. Upon igniting the grill, the tank immediately exploded, severely injuring the unsuspecting user.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates that roughly 600 propane tanks explode every year. Propane tanks, such as the one in Ben’s case, are supposed to be regulated and include safety features to prevent explosions. Unfortunately, safety regulations sometimes are not followed for various reasons.
The tanks can also be ineffective as designed. For example, if a tank is not manufactured properly and allows gas to leak from the tank, an explosion is likely to occur as soon as a spark is ignited near the leak. This phenomenon occurs too quickly for users to get to safety and often results in serious injuries and can involve fatalities in some cases.
Manufacturers must be held accountable to ensure safety for the general public. Beasley Allen lawyers are honored to represent persons who have been adversely impacted by propane tank explosions.
Another Avenue To Third-Party Claims In Workplace Injuries
State Workers’ Compensation Immunity laws frustrate attempts to fully compensate an injured party in an on-the-job accident through civil litigation. Beasley Allen lawyers have published a number of articles detailing the inability of an employee to sue the employer due to workers’ compensation immunity shielding the employer from actions based on negligence and wantonness. It is also well known that state workers’ compensation laws limit the recoveries and do not compensate for pain, suffering, mental anguish, lost enjoyment of life and other damages available under negligence claims in the civil court system.
When injuries or deaths are caused by defective machinery, however, there are potential claims against the designer/manufacturer of the equipment unless the state where the incident occurred has other laws that shield potential defendants from liability. Georgia has such a law. Georgia’s Statute of Repose prevents lawsuits against a designer/manufacturer of a product if the lawsuit is filed more than ten (10) years after the product was first sold.
For example, if an employee is seriously injured or killed due to a defective piece of industrial equipment and files suit within two years from the date the injury occurred, but the product was first sold 12 years prior, the Statute of Repose would prevent the claim. While failure to warn claims are not barred by the Statute of Repose, claims based on Strict Liability and Negligence are barred. Because industrial machinery can continue in production for twenty, thirty, and even fifty years, the Statute of Repose can result in injustice to the people lawyers in our firm and others seek to represent.
Kendall Dunson, a lawyer in our Personal Injury & Products Liability Section, currently represents a client in Savannah, Georgia, who sustained serious hand injuries when she was entrapped in machinery while performing her job duties for her employer. Her case is set for trial in January of 2024. Kendall and the litigation team are going to trial with all available claims, including Strict Liability, Negligence and Wantonness, even though the defective machine responsible for our client’s injury was first sold more than ten years ago.
Kendall and the team are able to proceed with all available claims because the designer/manufacturer of the equipment did not sell it to the victim’s employer. Instead, the equipment was leased to the employer. The lease agreement between the designer/manufacturer contained provisions that allowed the designer/manufacturer to access the equipment for inspections and modifications.
Additionally, the designer/manufacturer retained the right to take possession of the equipment for refurbishing and exercised that right within ten years of our client’s injury.
Thus, although the machine was first sold over 25 years ago, Kendall argued the latest refurbishment required the defendants to guard hazards to comply with industry standards updates that were not in existence when the machine was first sold.
Although Georgia’s Statute of Repose does not bar warning claims, failure to guard cases will always involve evidence that the employee knew or should have known of the danger; thus, the ability to assert Strict Liability and Negligence claims is significant. Even when a product was sold more than ten years before a client’s injury, and the statute of repose is implicated, lawyers must look for evidence that will allow all claims to proceed against a manufacturer of defective equipment. The ability to assert all available claims will allow for a better result for your client.
Woman Alleges Defective Lift Truck Crushed Her Arm
A Pennsylvania woman whose arm was crushed by a lift truck has filed a lawsuit against the vehicle’s manufacturer and distributor, alleging a critical safety device failed to prevent the machine from moving unexpectedly.
In Nov. 2021, the plaintiff was operating the lift truck to move some freight. When the vehicle stopped and the freight elevated, the woman stood up from the seat to scan the cargo she was moving. The process involved putting her right arm between the vehicle’s mast parts.
Her product liability lawsuit alleges that the lift truck’s mast came down suddenly and without warning, crushing her arm in the raising and lowering mechanisms in the front of the vehicle. The machinery should not have moved because it was equipped with a fail-safe device called a “dead man’s switch,” the plaintiff alleges. The safety apparatus failed to shut the vehicle off when the worker stood up from her seat as it was supposed to do.
The complaint alleges that Hyster-Yale Materials Handling Inc. defectively designed or manufactured the lift truck’s fail-safe device. It also alleges the vehicle’s distributor, Friskney Equipment Inc., shares liability for the incident because it should have inspected it before selling and shipping it to the plaintiff’s employer.
The complaint, filed in a Pennsylvania federal court, alleges the plaintiff suffers permanent injuries as a direct result of the defendants’ negligence, recklessness, and carelessness. The plaintiff’s expenses for surgeries and other medical care and treatment continue to mount, the lawsuit alleges.
Mrs. Dieter is represented by Larry Bendesky, Adam J. Pantano and Scott A.
Fellmeth of Saltz Mongeluzzi Bendesky.
The case is Lisa Dieter v. Friskney Equipment Inc, case number 2:05-mc-02025,
in the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania.
PREMISES LIABILITY LITIGATION
City Of Atlanta Files Class Action Suit Against Forest Cove Apartment Complex
Beasley Allen lawyers filed a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of Takezia Jackson, mother of Jamarkis Jackson, who was fatally shot last summer while residing at the Forest Cove apartment complex. For years, the complex’s owners have been under enormous scrutiny from the City of Atlanta and, specifically, the mayor’s office for its deplorable living conditions and rampant crime tormenting the tenants and the surrounding community. In addition to the apartment’s dilapidated condition, the complex has become a criminal assailant’s haven over the years. The complex has become notorious for crimes involving shootings, assaults, robberies, rape, and homicide, all of which require law enforcement’s involvement.
Since Beasley Allen Atlanta lawyer Parker Miller has filed suit, the City of Atlanta has filed a class action against defendant corporations Millennia and Pheonix Ridge (also our defendants). The lawsuit seeks damages on behalf of the residents the city relocated after hearing their complaints and determining the complex was unlivable. In the lawsuit, the city seeks reimbursement for the relocation of the tenants for at least ten (10) million dollars, the estimated cost the city spent supporting the tenants in the meantime. Moreover, this would pay the city back for its involvement in improving the conditions for Forest Cove residents prior to this lawsuit, like police funds spent combating rampant crime on the premises.
According to an article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, a lawyer for the defendant corporation claims that they bought the apartment complex with the single intent of tearing it down and rebuilding it. The property owners issued a statement that their intention when acquiring the property back in 2021 was to invest $58 million in its redevelopment. However, the city combats this notion by stating that the Forest Cove Apartment’s property owners have inactively sat on this plan for too long.
In our lawsuit, we also allege that the current and prior property owners of Forest Cove have done nothing to deter criminal activity and, in effect, have enabled the activity that ultimately led to Jamarkis’ death, along with the deaths of many others. The defendant corporations have had every opportunity to make a difference in this community. Instead, as the City of Atlanta correctly said, the owners have continued to ignore the tenants suffering in these inadequate conditions.
Stay tuned to how this concurrent class action lawsuit might affect the outcome of our case. If you have any questions about negligent security cases, contact our lead negligent security lawyer, Parker Miller, by using the contact form at the bottom of this page. Parker is in our Atlanta office and will be glad to help you.
Spoliation Of Evidence In Premises Cases By Defendants
One of the most important elements of any premises case is the defendant owner or occupier’s knowledge of the hazard that caused injury to the plaintiff. While this knowledge may be either actual or constructive depending on the facts of a given case, plaintiff’s counsel should always seek to find evidence of actual knowledge when possible.
This is especially true in premises cases involving active negligence and/or negligent employment claims, where the defendant owner or occupier may have had prior knowledge of the hazard or carelessness of its employee or agent prior to that same hazard or carelessness causing injury to the plaintiff. This evidence should be sought as early as possible in discovery. Such evidence includes the employee file of any employee who contributed to the cause of injury.
But what if evidence of the defendant’s knowledge was carelessly or intentionally destroyed or not properly preserved by the defendant? Thankfully, Georgia law allows for sanctions when such evidence has been spoliated by the defendant, the severity of which can range from a rebuttable presumption that the spoliated evidence would have been harmful to the defendant, to the defendant’s entire answer being stricken from the record.
While successfully obtaining sanctions for the defendant in a spoliation motion is no easy task, Beasley Allen lawyers have done so in multiple cases where a defendant carelessly or intentionally destroyed or failed to preserve relevant evidence.
Parker Miller and Houston Kessler, lawyers in our Atlanta office, have handled numerous premises liability cases across the State of Georgia and in other states. If you have any questions about these cases, you can contact them by using the contact form at the bottom of this page.
Class Action Litigation
ARC MDL Update – NHTSA Holds Public Hearing On Defective ARC Inflators
We are writing to update you on one of our newer cases involving defective airbag inflators, In re ARC Airbag Inflator Products Liability Litigation, which has been consolidated as an MDL in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia before Judge Eleanor L. Ross. Beasley Allen lawyers are co-leaders of this massive litigation.
We previously informed our readers of the ongoing investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) into ARC’s deadly airbag inflators. As part of its investigation, NHTSA requested and received information from ARC, airbag module suppliers, and automotive manufacturers related to airbag inflator ruptures during testing or in customers’ cars in the field. Based on its findings, on April 27, 2023, NHTSA demanded that ARC recall the defective Inflators to address the serious safety risk to consumers. Despite this demand, ARC refused to recall any of the 52 million airbag inflators in consumers’ vehicles.
As a result of ARC’s refusal to recall, on September 5, 2023, NHTSA issued an “Initial Decision That Certain Frontal Driver and Passenger Air Bag Inflators Manufactured by ARC Automotive Inc. and Delphi Automotive Systems LLC Contain a Safety Defect.”
By issuing an initial decision, NHTSA has begun an administrative process that could ultimately lead to an involuntary recall of all defective airbag inflators.
As part of this process, on October 5, 2023, NHTSA held a public hearing at the U.S. Department of Transportation headquarters in Washington, D.C. At the hearing, NHTSA officials, representatives of ARC, and others presented testimony and information on the history and investigation of the ARC inflator ruptures and the impact on consumers.
One speaker at the hearing, Sharon Yukevich, Division Chief for NHTSA’s Office of Defects Investigation, stated:
Data and evidence suggests this will happen again. The timing is unpredictable, and any one of the approximately 52 million subject inflators is at risk and recall of the entire subject inflator population will address this risk.
Beasley Allen lawyers in our Personal Injury & Products Liability Section, agree with NHTSA, and they will continue to vigorously pursue this litigation for our clients and consumers across the country.
After NHTSA concludes review of the testimony and written comments, it will issue a final decision, which could result in a nationwide recall of the defective inflators. We will keep our readers informed on this important litigation and NHTSA’s findings. Stay tuned!
The Beasley Allen lawyers working on this important case are Dee Miles, Demet Basar, Clay Barnett, Tom Willingham, Mitch Williams, and Dylan Martin, along with lawyers from Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP, Baron & Budd, P.C., Motley Rice LLC, Carella, Byrne, Cecchi, Brody & Angello, P.C., Cotachett, Pitre & MacCarthy, LLP, and Levin, Papantonio, Rafferty, Proctor, Buchanan, O’Brien, Barr & Mougey, P.A.
The case is In re ARC Airbag Inflators Products Liability Litigation, MDL No. 3051, Case No. 22-CV-03285-ELR, pending in the Northern District of Georgia.
PACER Fees Class Action Settlement Nears Final Approval
Lawyers for a class of law firms and individuals have asked a Washington DC federal judge to give final approval to a $125 million settlement resolving allegations that the U.S. Government overcharged PACER users for accessing federal court records.
The National Consumer Law Center, the Alliance for Justice, and the National Veterans Legal Services Program filed the class action lawsuit in 2016. The plaintiffs represent a class of anyone who paid the U.S. Judiciary fees to use the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) system from April 10, 2010, through May 31, 2018.
The plaintiffs contend that the government charged more than it needed to cover the cost of providing federal court records to the public. According to the lawsuit, the government collected $920 million in PACER fees from 2010 to 2016.
A lawyer for the plaintiffs said that discovery revealed the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts had been using PACER fees improperly in violation of a federal statute. A lower court approved some ways the Judiciary spent the PACER fees but rejected others. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit upheld the lower court’s ruling, prompting a bipartisan effort to pass legislation that would make PACER free to the public. The bill has since stalled in the Senate.
The government agreed to establish a $125 million common fund to settle the class action complaint. Class members who paid PACER fees from April 2010 through May 2018 may claim up to $350. Those who paid over $350 will receive a proportionate share of unclaimed funds.
Sources: Law360, Bloomberg Law
Class Action Lawyers At Beasley Allen
Beasley Allen lawyers are heavily involved in class action litigation in all parts of the country. Dee Miles, who heads the Consumer Fraud & Commercial Litigation Section, leads the effort. Other lawyers in the section who handle class action cases are:
Demet Basar, Lance Gould, Clay Barnett, James Eubank, Mitch Williams, Rebecca Gilliland, Rachel Minder, Paul Evans and Dylan Martin. They can be reached by using the contact form at the bottom of this page.
If you need help on a case that would be a class action, you can contact one of these lawyers. You can also contact Michelle Fulmer, Section Director, and she will have one of the lawyers contact you. Michelle can be reached using the contact form at the bottom of this page.
THE WHISTLEBLOWER LITIGATION
$172 Million Settlement In Whistleblower Case Against Cigna Group
Recently, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) announced in a press release that it has settled a False Claims Act (FCA) lawsuit against Cigna Group. The $172 million lawsuit resolves claims that Cigna defrauded Medicare by submitting diagnoses codes for its Medicare Advantage Plan that were inaccurate and untruthful.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) pays Medicare Advantage Organizations for each beneficiary who enrolls in a Medicare Advantage plan. It was alleged that Cigna, a Medicare Advantage Organization, submitted untruthful and inaccurate patient diagnosis information to CMS in order to inflate payments it received from CMS. The DOJ also alleged that Cigna “failed to withdraw inaccurate and untruthful diagnosis data and repay CMS and falsely certified in writing to CMS that the date was accurate and truthful.”
One aspect of the government’s settlement involved allegations that Cigna submitted information related to in-home assessments which did not involve diagnostic testing or imaging. According to the DOJ:
Cigna submitted these diagnoses to CMS to claim increased payments, and falsely certified each year that the diagnosis data it submitted was, accurate, complete and truthful.
These in-home assessment allegations came to the government’s attention by and through a former part-owner of a vendor that was retained by Cigna to conduct the home visits.
The whistleblower, Robert Cutler, filed a qui tam lawsuit under the FCA, which enables private citizens who are aware of fraud against the government to bring suit on behalf of the United States. In exchange for bringing a successful FCA claim, the whistleblower is entitled to receive a part of the government’s recovery as a reward. In this case, Cutler will receive $8,140,000.
If you are aware of fraud, abuse or waste being committed against the federal government or a state government and are interested in pursuing a whistleblower lawsuit, contact a Beasley Allen lawyer in our Consumer Fraud & Commercial Litigation Section. You can contact Michelle Fulmer, Section Director, by using the contact form at the bottom of this page.
The Beasley Allen Whistleblower Litigation Team
Beasley Allen lawyers remain heavily involved in the handling of whistleblower cases. Fraudulent conduct in Corporate America continues to cause huge problems in many industries in this country. Due to the case volume, we significantly increased our firm’s healthcare whistleblower practice months ago. Currently, our lawyers are handling cases throughout the country involving fraud against governments at both the federal and state levels. We will give another update in the December issue on this litigation, specifically as it relates to Beasley Allen’s involvement.
If you are aware of fraud being committed against the federal or state governments, you could be rewarded for reporting the fraud. If you have questions about whether you qualify as a whistleblower, contact a lawyer on our Whistleblower Litigation Team for a free and confidential evaluation of your claim. There is a contact form on our website, or you may call or email one of the lawyers on our team who are listed below.
The experienced lawyers on our Whistleblower Litigation Team are dedicated to handling whistleblower cases. Members of the Team are Larry Golston, Lance Gould, James Eubank, Paul Evans, Leon Hampton, Tyner Helms, Lauren Mile and Jessi Haynes. Dee Mile heads our Consumer Fraud & Commercial Litigation Section and works with the litigation group. The lawyers can also be reached by using the contact form at the bottom of this page.
Musk Will Have To Face Investors’ Fraud Suit Over Twitter Buy
A New York federal judge dismissed an insider-trading claim against Elon Musk last month but said Musk must face the rest of a securities fraud investor suit alleging that he covertly bought more than 5% of Twitter’s stock to save $200 million before announcing his intent to buy the platform.
U.S. District Judge Andrew L. Carter’s order granted part of Musk’s motion to dismiss the putative class action, finding that it failed to allege that the Tesla CEO became a “temporary insider” when he entered discussions with Twitter Inc. leaders about plans to join its board before announcing that he had purchased a large stake in the platform. However, Judge Carter denied Musk’s request to dismiss the investors’ 10(b) claims related to the late reporting of stock acquisitions.
Musk filed a Schedule 13G with the SEC on April 4, 2022, disclosing that he had amassed 9.2% of Twitter’s outstanding shares as of March. SEC rules mandate that when a person or group of persons acquires beneficial ownership of more than 5% of a voting class of a company’s shares, they must report it to the SEC within ten days via a public filing. Musk’s April 4 filing noted that the event triggering the filing (acquiring 5% of Twitter’s shares) occurred on March 14, 2022, 21 days before he reported the holdings to the SEC. A subsequent filing on April 5, 2022, reduced the total holding from 9.2% to 9.1% but confirmed that Musk had passed the 5% threshold on March 14, 2022.
When Musk finally did report his ownership, Twitter share prices jumped 27%. Shares closed trading at $39.31 per share on April 1, 2022, and rose to close at $49.97 on April 4, an increase of over 27%. Marc Bain Rasella, the plaintiff in the first complaint filed on April 12, 2022, stated:
Investors who sold shares of Twitter stock between March 24, 2022, when Musk was required to have disclosed his Twitter ownership, and before the actual April 4, 2022, disclosure missed the resulting share price increase as the market reacted to Musk’s purchases and were damaged thereby.
The complaint claims that the putative class of “hundreds or thousands” of members who sold their Twitter shares between March 24 and April 1 would have sold those shares at a higher price if Musk had timely disclosed his substantial position. Additionally, per SEC filings, Musk purchased 13,142,087 shares after March 24, 2022, for approximately $513 million. This was a savings of approximately $143 million less than the value of the same shares on April 4, which was allegedly achieved by keeping the original purchases quiet.
Whether failing to timely file a 13D report is enough to establish a material omission actionable as a 10(b) claim currently falls in the category of unsettled law. In January, Musk filed a motion seeking to dismiss the suit with prejudice, arguing that the investors’ “keystone claim” for a violation of Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act fails because there is no private right of action for damages under the Section 13(d) itself.
In support of his position, Musk cited the Second Circuit’s 1989 decision in Kamerman v. Steinberg and its subsequent 2002 decision in Hallwood Realty Partners LP v. Gotham Partners LP, which held that there is no private right of action or damages remedy for false or misleading statements in a Schedule 13D.
However, the plaintiffs pointed to the recent Second Circuit decision in Puddu v. 6D Global Technologies Inc., where the circuit reversed the dismissal of a Section 10(b) claim based on an alleged failure to disclose a defendant’s ownership of more than 5% of a company’s stock. On remand, the Southern District of New York judge in the Puddu case held:
The allegation that [defendant] was obligated to file the Schedule 13D — and opted not to do so — is enough to adequately plead a material omission for purposes of plaintiffs’ 10(b) claim.
Judge Carter found that the defendant’s reasoning “stretches the holding of Kamerman too far.” In Kamerman, “the Second Circuit did not explicitly hold that a Section 10(b) claim could not be predicated on a violation of 13(d) — it merely held that Section 13(d) itself does not contain a private right of action for damages.” Judge Carter also held that the plaintiffs adequately alleged scienter for the 10(b) claim. The judge added:
Musk knew of his duty to disclose, specifically pointing to his sworn deposition testimony in an SEC enforcement action where he stated, ‘U.S. reporting requirements start at 5 percent. At least at this juncture, considering the other circumstantial evidence presented by plaintiff, the allegation that defendant Musk was obligated to file the Schedule 13D — and opted not to do so — is enough to adequately plead a material omission and misstatement for purposes of plaintiff’s Section 10(b) claim.
In dismissing the insider-trading claims, Judge Carter held that the plaintiffs said Musk became a “temporary insider” when he began holding meetings with Twitter’s leadership board. But the judge added:
It is unclear that plaintiff’s allegations that Musk met with Twitter executives to discuss his ownership stake and his plan to join the board and plans for the company … is enough to properly allege he was a temporary insider.
The SEC is also investigating Musk’s actions related to his 13D filings. The SEC filed papers in the Northern District of California on October 5th, seeking an order for Elon Musk to comply with an investigative subpoena to testify about the matter. The SEC claims Musk failed to appear at a mutually agreed-upon date in September after being served with a subpoena in May 2023.
The case is Oklahoma Firefighters Pension and Retirement System v. Elon Musk, case number 1:22-cv-03026, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. While Beasley Allen is not leading this case, our lawyers are heavily involved in other securities cases. James Eubank is Beasley Allen’s lead lawyer in our securities cases. He is willing to review any cases involving securities issues. James can be reached by using the contact form at the bottom of this page.
GE Agrees To Pay $61 Million To Resolve 401(k) Fund Lawsuit
General Electric (GE) has agreed to pay $61 million to resolve claims that its fledgling employee retirement plan managed by a former subsidiary cost its employees millions. The plaintiffs filed the suit in 2017, alleging that five retirement funds managed by GE Asset Management (GEAM) were the only actively managed options available to the plan’s participants. The plaintiffs claimed that since 2011, the funds underperformed relative to comparable investment options, causing thousands of plan participants to lose an estimated $283 million.
GE sold its GEAM subsidiary to State Street Corp. in 2016 for $485 million. The plaintiffs alleged GE retained the underperforming plan to inflate the cost, then used the proceeds to pay down debt it owed to its defined benefits pension plan.
If the federal judge approves the settlement, the plaintiff’s lawyers say it will be the largest settlement ever in a lawsuit alleging an in-house retirement plan mismanagement.
A spokesperson for GE denied the claims but said the company was pleased to have the case resolved. Lawyers for the plaintiffs said the result was good for employees who had invested in the GE Funds and lost a sizeable portion of their hard-earned investment.
Securities Litigation Team At Beasley Allen
Beasley Allen lawyers in our Consumer Fraud & Commercial Litigation Section remain very active in securities cases around the country. As previously reported, this area of our practice has continued to grow. The marked increase nationally in securities litigation has come as no surprise to Beasley Allen lawyers. They were well aware of how widespread fraud has become in Corporate America.
Lawyers in the section who handle these claims welcome any opportunity to investigate suspected practices and are blessed to be able to engage with both new and established colleagues in federal securities law and state securities litigation.
We will give a full update on our firm’s handling of cases in this litigation in the December issue. Meanwhile, you can contact a member of our Securities Litigation Team concerning any securities cases or issues. The team consists of the following lawyers: James Eubank, who heads the team, along with Demet Basar, Rebecca Gilliland and Paul Evans. Dee Miles, who heads the section, also works with the team. The team members can be reached by using the contact form at the bottom of this page.
Allstate Policyholders Reach $25 Million Settlement In Auto Premium Class Action
In October 2023, Allstate policyholders, in a proposed class action, requested that the Northern District of California approve a $25 million settlement arising from allegations that Allstate overcharged the proposed class for automobile premiums. The lawsuit alleged that Allstate used price optimization, which considers policyholders’ willingness to pay higher premiums relative to others.
In August 2015, named plaintiff Andrea Stevenson filed a proposed class action against Allstate Insurance Co. and Allstate Indemnity Co. on behalf of similarly situated policyholders, asserting violations of California’s consumer protection statutes and insurance code, among other causes of action.
The lawsuit followed a notice from the California Department of Insurance forbidding insurers from using “any method of taking into account an individual’s or class’s willingness to pay a higher premium relative to other individuals or classes” in their rating plans. The lawsuit alleged Allstate used this practice of price optimization when determining premiums for policyholders in California, which caused policyholders to overpay for automobile insurance.
In 2016, the Northern District of California dismissed the claim alleging insurance code violations and stayed the remaining claims pending action by the California Department of Insurance Commissioner. The Commissioner subsequently issued a Notice of Hearing into Allstate’s alleged use of price optimization in determining premiums. Days before an evidentiary hearing before the Department of Insurance, Allstate reached an agreement in principle to settle the class action for $25 million.
The parties then engaged in further negotiations, which culminated in the parties moving to the federal court for preliminary approval of the proposed settlement and certification of the settlement class, which consists of nearly 1.3 million Allstate policyholders in California. If preliminarily approved by the Northern District of California, notice will be issued to proposed class members informing them of their rights under the settlement.
While our law firm was not involved in the case discussed above, Beasley Allen lawyers regularly represent consumers against the insurance industry for violations similar to those in the above case. Should you suspect that your insurance company is improperly charging inflated premiums on any policy of insurance, you should have a lawyer review your policies.
In our firm, lawyers in our Consumer Fraud & Commercial Litigation Section handle these types of cases. Paul Evans, a lawyer in the section, will be happy to review any such cases. He can be reached by using the contact form at the bottom of this page
The case is Stevenson v. Allstate Insurance Co. et al., case number 4:15-cv-04788, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
MASS TORTS LITIGATION
Hair Relaxer Litigation Update
Beasley Allen is pleased to announce that on October 3, 2023, Judge John A. Simon, on behalf of the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois, appointed Navan Ward, a lawyer in our firm’s Mass Torts Section, to the Plaintiff’s Executive Committee for consolidated state court hair relaxer litigation. This follows Navan’s appointment by U.S. District Judge Mary Rowland, the federal judge overseeing the national hair relaxer multidistrict litigation (MDL), to serve on the Plaintiff Executive Committee. Navan will lend his extensive leadership experience as he helps guide the litigation for both federal and state court plaintiffs.
The Beasley Allen team handling this litigation is also making great progress on behalf of our clients. To date, the team has filed approximately 175 cases in the MDL court in the Northern District of Illinois and state courts in both Illinois and Georgia. The plaintiffs recently won a hotly contested discovery dispute regarding the document production requests from the plaintiffs to the defendant hair relaxer manufacturers. Judge Rowland ruled in favor of the plaintiffs on almost all the objections and ordered production by November 23, 2023.
Navan is also a leader outside the courtroom, serving as the Immediate Past President of the American Association for Justice (AAJ) and a Founding Executive Committee Member of Shades of Mass, which helps increase the representation of lawyers of color in mass tort litigation leadership.
Beasley Allen lawyers are currently investigating cases on behalf of women who used hair relaxers and developed uterine, endometrial, and ovarian cancer. If you, a client, or a loved one have suffered any of these injuries, contact Navan Ward by using the contact form at the bottom of this page.
Philips CPAP Litigation – Proposed Class Settlement For Economic Loss Claims Will Not Impact Personal Injury Claims
The litigation against Philips Respironics related to its recalled sleep and respiratory care devices continues to move forward. Hundreds of personal injury cases are currently pending before Judge Joy Flowers Conti in the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. The personal injury cases and several class action cases are part of Multidistrict litigation as ordered by the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation. In addition to the personal injury plaintiffs that have filed suit, tens of thousands more have been added to a Census Registry where plaintiffs are able to toll the statute of limitations for their claims.
In September 2023, Philips announced that the parties had agreed to a class settlement to resolve all economic loss claims. The proposed settlement has been submitted to Judge Joy Flowers Conti for approval. Under the terms of the proposed Settlement Agreement, Philips will provide $100 for each recalled device returned to Philips. In addition to the $100, Philips will also provide an award based on the specific type of recalled device returned. These awards range in value. For example, the award for DreamStation CPAP machines will be $55.63. The award for a System One 60 Series Base will be $68.24.
Should the proposed settlement be approved, the decision of whether or not to participate in the Economic Loss Claims settlement will be completely up to each individual who purchased and used one or more of Philips’ recalled devices. If an individual has a pending personal injury claim or a potential personal injury claim, they are free to participate in the Economic Loss Claims settlement, and their participation will not have any impact whatsoever on their potential personal injury claim.
Following approval of the proposed class settlement, individuals who choose to participate will be responsible for returning their device to Philips and submitting a claim on the website that has been created at https://www.respironicscpap-elsettlement.com/.
As to the personal injury litigation against Philips, discovery, including extensive document review and coordination with experts, is ongoing. In October 2023, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reported in an update that it was unhappy with Philips’ progress following its June 2021 recall. After the recall, the FDA issued an order requiring Philips to release information about the data from test results and findings from testing the PE-PUR foam used in recalled devices for volatile organic compounds and particulate matter.
In April 2023, Philips provided a report to the FDA consolidating what it claimed was a complete set of data. In its report, Philips claimed that at the time the recall was issued, it relied on an initial, limited data set and toxicological risk assessment. Philips stated that since the recall, it has collaborated with independent, certified laboratories to conduct “a comprehensive test and research program on the PE-PUR foam to better assess and scope the potential patient health risks related to possible emission of particulates from degraded foam and [volatile organic compounds].”
Philips claimed that the assessment concluded that exposure to foam particulates and volatile organic compounds is unlikely to result in appreciable harm to patients. However, in its October 2023 update, the FDA stated it does not believe that the testing Philips has provided so far is adequate to fully weigh the health risks posed by the breakdown of sound-insulating foam. The FDA stated it believes more testing is needed, which Philips has agreed to provide.
Beasley Allen lawyers are currently investigating claims related to the devices recalled by Philips where users have developed lung cancer, asthma, chronic respiratory injuries, or kidney disease. Our firm is currently only investigating claims for plaintiffs who reside in states with statutes of limitation of three years or longer. For more information, contact Beau Darley or Alexa Wallace, lawyers in our Mass Torts Section, by using the contact form at the bottom of this page.
Sources: In re: Philips Recalled CPAP, Bi-Level PAP, and Mechanical Ventilator Prods. Liab. Litig., MDL No. 3014 (W.D. Pa. Sept. 7, 2023), Law360, Philips Respironics, and respironicscpap-elsettlement.com
Parties Amend Plaintiff Fact Sheets In Acetaminophen Autism / ADHD MDL
On September 29, 2023, the Parties in the Acetaminophen Autism/ADHD MDL proposed an amended Plaintiff Fact Sheet. The amendments will, among other things, allow defendants to collect certain medical records from the birth mothers of plaintiff children that have filed cases in the MDL. U.S. District Judge Denise Cote (SDNY) granted the amendments on October 2, 2023. Plaintiff Fact Sheets must be submitted for any newly filed cases within sixty (60) days from filing the Short Form Complaint.
The Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) consolidated cases to Judge Cote on October 5, 2022, due to the increasing number of filings across the country alleging a link between prenatal acetaminophen exposure and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and/or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Beasley Allen lawyers in our Mass Torts Section continue to investigate cases involving prenatal exposure to acetaminophen who have subsequently been diagnosed with autism or ADHD. For more information, contact Mary Raybon or Melissa Pricket by using the contact form at the bottom of this page.
Source: In re: Acetaminophen – ASD-ADHD Prods. Liab. Litig., 22-md-03043-DLC
Infant Formula Litigation Update
Beasley Allen lawyers continue to investigate and file infant formula cases, representing parents and their children who have suffered from necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) as a result of being fed cow’s milk-based formula as a newborn. The science clearly shows that premature, underweight infants are at a much higher risk of this often-fatal intestinal condition when given cow’s milk-based infant formulas like Enfamil and Similac.
The manufacturers of these products offer no warning whatsoever on their products about the risk of NEC, despite the fact virtually every pediatric medical organization worldwide recognizes the heightened risk and recommends human milk over these formulas. If the infant’s mother is unable to breastfeed, donor milk is the next best choice. There are also non-bovine formula alternatives.
Presently, the federal litigation is consolidated in Chicago. A national multi-district litigation court has been established in the Northern District of Illinois with U.S. District Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer presiding. The court recently held a “science day” wherein lawyers from both sides offered their views on the science and causation. Discovery is ongoing as we all march toward a trial schedule.
Beasley Allen lawyers have also filed cases in Madison County, IL. Those cases are presently stalled as the defendants appeal several jurisdictional decisions by Presiding Judge Dennis Ruth. Our lawyers expect those appeals to be resolved by year’s end, and they will resume their course toward trial. In the meantime, discovery continues and our experts continue to prepare.
David Dearing and Brittany Scott, lawyers in our firm’s Mass Torts Section, are overseeing these cases. For more information, they can be contacted by using the contact form at the bottom of this page.
Toxic Heavy Metals In Baby Food
Beasley Allen lawyers are also investigating baby food products regarding their toxic heavy metal content and its effects on infants. In 2018, Consumer Reports tested several baby foods available for consumption in the U.S. Of those tested, 33 of the 50 contained high amounts of lead, arsenic, mercury and cadmium. Consumer Reports performed a new analysis of the same foods just this year. While some of the products reduced their heavy metal content, others increased. Studies have shown that consuming heavy metals may increase the risk of overall infant health and developmental problems in children. This would include neurodevelopment disorders such as Autism, ADHD and other behavioral issues.
There are cases filed around the country against many of the baby food manufacturers. Trials are scheduled to begin in 2024, with dates currently being scheduled. Roger Smith, Chad Cook, Ryan Duplechin, Mary Cam Raybon and Melissa Prickett, lawyers in Beasley Allen’s Mass Torts Section, are currently investigating individual cases involving children who consumed baby food contaminated with toxic heavy metals.
Source: Consumer Reports
TOXIC TORT LITIGATION
Paraquat Litigation Update
At press time for this issue, there still had been no decision on the pending Daubert motions in the Paraquat MDL. As they await this pivotal date for this litigation, Beasley Allen lawyers Leslie LaMacchia and Julia Merritt continue to work on their cases in preparation for further trials.
One unique aspect of these cases is the usage aspect. Paraquat is a restricted-use pesticide, so it requires a license to purchase. Now, only the license holder for paraquat is permitted to handle, mix, and apply paraquat. But, in the early days of paraquat, the regulations concerning usage were less restrictive on non-license holders’ use of the product.
Further, due to the communal aspect of farming, it was common for the pesticide to be shared amongst farmers and neighbors – many of whom were not licensed.
All of these factors lead to one complicated issue – how do you provide evidence of usage when the client is not a license holder? It’s issues like this that Julia and Leslie are working on to bolster evidence for their clients’ cases.
If you are in a similar position, feel free to reach out to our lawyers. Leslie and Julia have hosted several webinars where common issues like this are discussed. These webinars can be found online at Beasley Allen’s website.
New Study Strengthens Link Between PFAS Exposure And Testicular Cancer
Thousands of lawsuits have been filed against companies that manufacture PFAS, alleging various illnesses caused by the chemicals. There has long been a link between testicular cancer and PFAS, but a new study now strengthens that link.
PFAS are used in firefighting foams known as AFFF, which are commonly used in training exercises by military personnel. This new study shows a direct association between PFOS, a PFAS chemical found in the blood of Air Force servicemen, and testicular cancer. This federal study was conducted by the National Cancer Institute and Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences.
Researchers looked at the PFOS levels in blood bank samples of Air Force servicemen and found strong evidence that airmen who were diagnosed with testicular cancer had higher blood levels of PFOS. Multiple studies show that firefighters, both military and civilian, are diagnosed with testicular cancer at higher-than-average rates.
Another federally funded report published last year by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine found that exposure to PFAS is associated with health effects such as decreased response to vaccines, kidney cancer, and low birth weight. Many have recommended blood testing for communities with high exposure to PFAS, followed by health screenings for those above certain levels. The VA does not currently recommend blood testing for PFAS.
Beasley Allen lawyers are currently accepting clients who were exposed to PFAS through firefighting, military service, or civilian exposure through drinking water.
EMPLOYMENT AND FLSA LITIGATION
The National Labor Relations Board Returned To A Totality Of The Circumstances Test To Determine Whether Concerted Activity
In late August, the U.S. National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) adopted a broad view of the type of worker conduct protected by federal labor law, saying Trump-era precedent had improperly allowed companies to retaliate against employees who raised concerns about working conditions.
As early as 1986, the NLRB decided that a determination about whether an employee who intends to encourage fellow employees to engage in group action engaged in “concerted activity” is “a factual one based on the totality of the evidence.”
In 2019, the Trump–era NLRB overruled itself with an “unduly restrictive test” that provided a checklist of factors to determine whether the employee engaged in concerted activity rather than focusing on the facts as previously required by the NLRB. On August 31, 2023, the NLRB issued a decision that overruled the 2019 case and returned to a totality of the circumstances analysis based on the facts of the employee’s activities.
More specifically, the board’s Democratic majority ruled that manufacturer Miller Plastic Products Inc. fired Ronald Vincer, an employee at its Pennsylvania plant, for questioning its decision to keep the plant open in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Miller claimed that Vincer was fired for performance issues and not because of his statements about keeping the plant open. But the company also argued that under the Alstate standard, Vincer’s comments were not protected because he was merely expressing concerns about his personal safety and not advocating on behalf of his coworkers. Alstate held that raising concerns in a group setting is not necessarily protected activity and required workers to show evidence of prior group discussions on a topic to prove their conduct was protected.
In August, the board said the Alstate ruling was flawed because it ignored that concerted activity could happen spontaneously and not just in the context of workplace meetings or formal complaints.
The “totality of the circumstances” test was more faithful to the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) and effective for sorting out when worker complaints should be considered protected activity, the board said. Vincer’s comments were protected because he spoke up repeatedly on an issue affecting the entire plant, including at an all-hands meeting, and his concerns were echoed by other workers, the NLRB ruled.
Lauren McFerran, Chairman of the NLRB, stated:
The right of employees to engage in concerted activity to improve their working conditions is central to the National Labor Relations Act. The Board should not artificially constrain the definition of concerted activity, as the [2019 case] decision did. By returning to the Board’s traditional approach, we better protect employees who seek to improve their working conditions.
Beasley Allen’s employment law team follows changes in the employment law sector, including those from the NLRB.
Source: National Labor Relations Board
THE CONSUMER CORNER
Ford Recalls Over 238,000 Explorers Due To Axle Bolt Issue
Ford Motor Company recalled over 238,000 model year 2020 through 2022 Explorers in the U.S. because a rear axle bolt could fail. If this happens, it may cause the loss of drive power or allow the SUV to roll away while in park.
Ford initiated the recall after U.S. safety regulators launched an investigation into the problem after getting two complaints that repairs didn’t fix the problems in two previous recalls issued this year and in 2022.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said that the issue involves the rear axle horizontal mounting bolt fracturing and causing the driveshaft to disconnect. This defect can increase the risk of a crash.
Ford said dealers will replace a brushing and the rear axle bolt of affected vehicles. They will also inspect the rear axle cover for damage near the bolt hole and replace any damaged covers. Ford will notify owners by letter beginning November 6.
Ford says it is unaware of any crashes or injuries due to the defect. The company acknowledges 396 reports of rear axle bolt failures and says fewer than 5% caused loss of power or vehicles to roll while they were in park.
NHTSA launched an investigation into the issue in June after receiving complaints of alleged loss of power due to failure of rear axle bolts even though the SUVs had received repairs under a previous recall. Ford had tried to fix the issue by updating software that automatically applied the parking brake to keep the vehicles from rolling away. However, NHTSA said the fix failed to address the defective axle bolt.
Source: Associated Press
Deaths, Catastrophic Injuries Prompt Electric Skateboard Recall
A self-balancing skateboard manufacturer is recalling its entire line of self-balancing electric skateboards after receiving reports of multiple deaths and serious injuries associated with the devices.
The recall covers 300,000 Onewheel electric skateboards made by Santa Cruz, California-based Future Motion. The skateboards’ electronic self-balancing abilities can stop when a rider exceeds the board’s limits, potentially causing a serious crash, federal regulators warned.
The manufacturer has received reports of four deaths between 2019 and 2021. Those deaths were all caused by head trauma. Dozens of additional reports blame the electric skateboards for catastrophic injuries, including traumatic brain injury and concussion, paralysis, fractures to the lower and upper body and ligament injuries.
The skateboards covered in the recall are the Onewheel, Onewheel+, Onewheel+ XR, Onewheel Pint, Onewheel Pint X and Onewheel GT. The company sold the boards online and through independent retailers from January 2014 through September 2023 at a cost of $1,050 – $2,200.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission warns owners of the Onewheel boards to stop using them immediately. Future Motion will release a firmware update to remedy the crash threat. The update installs a “haptic buzz.” This vibratory and audible warning alerts the driver when the board is reaching its limits, its battery power is low, or it is in an error state.
However, Future Motion cannot remedy the original Onewheel and Onewheel+ boards with the software update. Owners of those boards are only eligible for a $100 prorated refund, useable as a store credit after discarding the board.
Source: Consumer Product Safety Commission
Family Dollar Recalls Hundreds Of Products Due To Storage Issue
Family Dollar recalled over 300 products from stores in 23 states, including Alabama and Georgia, because the items were stored “outside of labeled temperature requirements.” The full list of products, which can be found on the FDA’s website, includes Crest Tartar Protection toothpaste, Tylenol Arthritis Caplets, At-Home Marijuana Test Strips, and Flintstones vitamins.
The discount chain noted that customers likely don’t have receipts for the products, so the store will allow consumers to return any affected products without a receipt to the location where they purchased them.
Family Dollar said it had stored the products outside of labeled temperature requirements and inadvertently shipped them to certain stores on or around June 1 through October 1. The company has not received any consumer complaints or reports of illness related to this recall.
The recall only applies to the listed products in the following states: Alabama, Florida, California, Texas, Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Mexico, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.
Consumers with questions regarding this recall may contact Family Dollar Customer Service at 844-636-7687 during business hours. Those who experience any problems related to using these products should contact their physician or healthcare provider.
This is the second time Family Dollar has recalled hundreds of products since last year.
Sources: AL.com and Federal Drug Administration
Candy Dynamics Recalls 70 Million Liquid Candies Due to Choking Hazard
Candy Dynamics recalled 70 million Slime Licker Sour Rolling Liquid Candies because the rolling ball can detach from the container into a child’s mouth and pose a choking hazard. The company received two reports of the rolling ball applicator coming loose. No injuries were reported.
The Slime Licker Sour Rolling Liquid Candies were sold at Walmart, Five Below, and other retail stores nationwide, as well as online at Amazon.com, CandyDynamics.com, and other websites from June 2015 through July 2023 for between $2 and $4.
The candies were sold in two- and three-ounce containers filled with liquid candy and topped with a plastic bottle with a rolling ball. The product was sold in blue (Blue Razz), red (Strawberry), green (Sour Apple), and pink (Black Cherry) packaging with “TOXIC WASTE” brand and “SLIME LICKER Sour Rolling Liquid Candy” or “MEGA TOXIC WASTE” brand and “SLIME LICKER Sour Rolling Liquid Candy” printed on the front label.
The recall affects these products and UPC codes:
- Slime Licker® Sour Rolling Liquid Candy (Blue Razz & Strawberry) – 8-98940-00101-6
- Slime Licker® Sour Rolling Liquid Candy (Blue Razz & Strawberry) – 8-98940-00191-7
- Mega Slime Licker® Sour Rolling Liquid Candy (Blue Razz & Strawberry) – 8-98940-00169-6
- Slime Licker® Sour Rolling Liquid Candy (Black Cherry & Sour Apple) – 8-50034-59720-1
- Slime Licker® Sour Rolling Liquid Candy (Blue Razz & Strawberry) – 0-60631-91829-7
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) advised consumers to stop using the recalled candies immediately, take them away from children, and contact Candy Dynamics for a full refund for products that still contain some liquid candy.
Sources: AL.com and Consumer Product Safety Commission
Ghost Guns Must Remain Traceable Amid Legal Challenges
The U.S. Supreme Court decided last month that two companies selling “ghost guns” (firearms without serial numbers) must follow a new rule to make the weapons traceable. The decision came after a Texas federal judge earlier allowed the companies Defense Distributed and BlackHawk Manufacturing Group to sell ghost guns without complying with the new rule.
The new Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) rule requires sellers of ghost guns to have licenses, put serial numbers on the guns, keep sales records, and do background checks on buyers. The Biden Administration pushed for the new rule, which redefines firearms to include unfinished parts that buyers can assemble into guns.
The High Court had already intervened in the dispute in August, ruling 5-4 that ghost gun companies must comply with the new law after Northern District of Texas Judge Reed O’Connor invalidated it. A Fifth Circuit panel had upheld the lower court’s decision, saying that the companies shouldn’t be forced out of business while the rule is being disputed.
The Biden administration argues that without the new rule, anyone with a computer and a credit card can continue to buy untraceable ghost guns without a background check. The government also warns that other companies will follow Defense Distributed and BlackHawk’s lead or seek a similar injunction.
Ghost guns have quickly become the weapon of choice for criminals and others who can’t legally obtain a gun or wish to use firearms anonymously. According to U.S. intelligence data, crimes involving ghost guns have risen more than 1000% in less than five years, a clear signal that America’s epidemic of gun violence is spiraling out of control.
The case is Garland et al. v. Defense Distributed et al., case number 23A302, in the Supreme Court of the United States.
Sources: Law360 and CBS News
Fifth Circuit Puts Temporary Hold On FDA’s Ban Of Popular Vape Products
One day after federal officials banned the marketing and sale of popular Vuse-brand vaping products in the U.S. due to failing “to meet the public health standard,” the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals put the effort on hold. The court granted an emergency motion for a temporary stay of the ban on menthol-flavored Vuse Alto E-cigarettes. An R.J. Reynolds takes the position that there is ample evidence for the FDA “to determine that the marketing of these products is appropriate for the protection of public health.”
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) marketing denial orders covered six Reynolds Vapor Company Vuse Alto e-cigarettes, including three menthol-flavored and three mixed berry-flavored products, each in varying nicotine strengths.
Regarding the flavored products, the FDA said Reynolds failed to “demonstrate that the menthol- and mixed berry-flavored products provided an added benefit for adults who smoke cigarettes — in terms of complete switching or significant smoking reduction — relative to that of tobacco-flavored products that is sufficient to outweigh the known risks to youth.” Reynolds said it would challenge the FDA order.
Vuse is the most-sold e-cigarette brand in the U.S. Vuse Alto is its most popular sub-brand. The National Youth Tobacco Survey, a school-based survey on tobacco use among middle and high school students, found that Vuse vapes are the second-most commonly reported e-cigarette brand used by teens.
A LOOK AT THE STRUCTURE OF BEASLEY ALLEN AND CASES HANDLED
How The Structure Of Beasley Allen Is Set Up And Why It Works
We have written in prior issues about how Beasley Allen has grown from its start-up in 1979 as a one-lawyer firm to a very large firm today. It has been explained how the division of the firm into sections came about. The separate litigation sections concept has worked very well since the significant change was made. The section concept continues to work well on behalf of our clients.
Since the beginning of the firm, Beasley Allen lawyers handled all sorts of litigation for plaintiffs in civil litigation. However, that changed when we revised the structure in 1998, resulting in the firm operating in five separate sections. The Administrative Section supports the four litigation sections that could be described as “mini-firms” within Beasley Allen. Those four litigation sections are the Mass Torts Section, the Toxic Torts Section, the Consumer Fraud & Commercial Litigation Section and the Personal Injury & Products Liability Section.
Each section has a team of lawyers and support staff working closely together, creating efficiency and case expertise within each section. The lawyers and staff develop expertise in the area of law handled by the section. Successful section performance leads to better firm performance overall, allowing us to expand our resources and enabling firm growth. Year after year, we believe our approach has allowed us to help more of those who need it most.
The Mass Torts Section
Andy Birchfield heads our Mass Torts Section, while Melissa Prickett serves as the Section’s Director. With over 50 years of combined legal experience, Andy and Melissa lead the firm’s largest section in the medical devices, medication and other practice areas. The section currently handles cases involving acetaminophen, CPAP devices, hair relaxers, heavy metals in baby food, NEC baby formula, social media and talcum powder.
The Toxic Torts Section
Rhon Jones leads our firm’s Toxic Torts Section with Section Director Tracie Harrison’s assistance. The section focuses on toxic exposure cases. Recent cases involve Camp Lejeune water contamination, mesothelioma, paraquat and firefighting foam.
The Consumer Fraud & Commercial LItigation Section
Dee Miles is the Section Head of our Consumer Fraud & Commercial Litigation Section. Michelle Fulmer is the Director and assists with Business Litigation, Class Action, Consumer Protection, Employment Law and Whistleblower cases.
The Personal Injury & Products LIablity Section
Cole Portis heads our Personal Injury & Products Liability Section with Sloan Downes serving as the Director of the Section. The section handles auto accidents, aviation accidents, defective tires, negligent security, on-the-job injuries and truck accident cases.
The Administrative Section
Finally, the Administrative Section includes Accounting, Operations, Human Resources (HR), Information Technology (IT) and Marketing. Michelle Parks is the Director of Accounting, Michelle Fulmer is the Director of Operations, and Kimberly Youngblood serves as the Director of HR, IT and Marketing.
Since we reorganized the firm’s structure, our record speaks for itself; I am convinced the structure, as set up in 1998, has contributed greatly to our firm’s success. Section Heads and Directors have been able to concentrate on the cases in their section and they quickly recognize when additional resources are needed. Lawyers have been able to focus on clients within their specialty and on achieving favorable client results. The efficiency and teamwork generated by the sections concept has resulted in our firm being recognized as one of the best litigation firms in the country. This has been for the benefit of the folks we represented.
The Latest Look At Case Activity At Beasley Allen
Our BeasleyAllen.com website provides the latest information on the current case activity at Beasley Allen. The list can be found on our homepage, the top navigation, or the practices page of our website (BeasleyAllen.com/Practices/). The following are the current case activity listings for the Beasley Allen Sections.
- Business Litigation
- Class Actions
- Consumer Protection
- Employment Law
- Medical Devices
- Personal Injury
- Product Liability
- Toxic Exposure
- Whistleblower Litigation
The cases in the categories listed below are handled by lawyers in the appropriate Litigation Section at Beasley Allen. The list can be found on our homepage, on the top navigation, or on the Cases page of our website.
- Auto Accidents
- Aviation Accidents
- Camp Lejeune
- CPAP Devices
- Defective Tires
- Hair Relaxers
- Heavy Metals in Baby Food
- NEC Baby Formula
- Negligent Security
- Social Media
- Talcum Powder
- Truck Accidents
We will give a brief explanation for each category below:
Beasley Allen handles cases of mothers who took acetaminophen while pregnant and gave birth to a child later diagnosed with autism or ADHD. Cases also include children treated with the drug during the first 18 months of life who developed autism or ADHD.
- Auto Accidents
Our lawyers handle life-altering and deadly automobile accident cases caused by defective products and driver negligence. Crashes may involve single vehicles, multiple vehicles, motorcycles, recreational vehicles, transit vehicles or trucks.
- Aviation Accidents
We investigate aviation accidents resulting from mechanical failures, human error and other causes. Crashes injure hundreds, sometimes thousands, of victims onboard aircraft and on the ground every year.
- Camp Lejeune
Our firm handles cases of victims exposed to contaminated water supplies at U.S. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune between 1953 and 1987. Exposure to toxic water caused serious injuries, including cancer, adult leukemia, Parkinson’s disease, major cardiac birth defects and others.
- Defective Tires
Defective tires can lead to automobile accidents resulting in injury or even death. Beasley Allen lawyers investigate these accidents caused by blowouts, tread separation and other tire failures.
- Firefighting Foam
We investigate cases of Aqueous Film Forming Foam exposure. This firefighting foam contains highly toxic PFAS chemicals that can lead to cancer, liver damage, decreased fertility and other health risks.
- Hair Relaxers
Our lawyers handle cases for women injured by toxic chemicals in hair relaxers. Women who frequently use hair relaxers may develop uterine cancer, endometriosis, uterine fibroids or breast cancer.
- Heavy Metals in Baby Food
Beasley Allen investigates cases of infants exposed to toxic heavy metals in baby foods. Many baby food brands contain arsenic, cadmium, lead or mercury, which can lead to serious, irreversible damage in babies’ developing brains.
We handle cases of asbestos exposure resulting in malignant mesothelioma, a type of cancer that can lay dormant for years. Millions of U.S. workers may have been exposed to asbestos decades ago.
- NEC Baby Formula
Our firm investigates cases of premature babies who developed necrotizing enterocolitis after consuming infant formulas manufactured by brands like Enfamil and Similac. Necrotizing enterocolitis is an intestinal disease that can lead to long-term complications and even death.
- Negligent Security
Establishment owners and managers are responsible for maintaining safe premises. When someone is injured or killed as a result of negligent security, Beasley Allen lawyers hold owners and managers accountable.
We investigate workers’ compensation cases, often finding that defective industrial products are to blame for workers’ injuries or deaths. Industrial products include manufacturing, farming, construction or other types of equipment.
Our firm handles cases for victims injured by paraquat, a popular herbicide linked to Parkinson’s Disease that has been banned or partially banned in at least 92 countries. Paraquat remains legal in the U.S., risking the health and safety of workers on over 2 million U.S. farms.
- Social Media
Our youth are facing a mental health crisis caused by social media addiction. Beasley Allen advocates for these youth who have suffered harms, including anxiety, depression, eating disorders, body dysmorphia, ADD/ADHD, self-harm and suicide.
- Talcum Powder
We handle cases for women diagnosed with ovarian cancer after regular use of talcum powder. For decades, companies like Johnson & Johnson knew that talcum powder might cause cancer but failed to warn consumers.
- Truck Accidents
Our firm handles accident cases involving tractor-trailers, commercial vehicles and other large trucks. These cases often involve multiple, well-funded defendants and complex insurance issues.
Resources to Help Your Law Practice
I will again make clear that Beasley Allen is a litigation firm for plaintiffs. This means the firm only represents individuals, companies and governmental entities that have been wronged and have suffered damages due to the wrongdoing. Our lawyers do not handle any defense work, whether civil or criminal, and there are no exceptions. The only time we represent companies in Corporate America is when they are victims of wrongdoing and are plaintiffs in civil litigation. This has been our policy since the firm’s establishment in 1979, and it will never be changed.
We are honored and humbled that our firm has been consistently recognized as one of the leading law firms in the country for representing sole claimants involved in complex civil litigation. Being trial lawyers representing only victims of wrongdoing is a privilege for us. Our firm has been truly blessed.
We understand the importance of sharing resources and collaborating with our peers in the legal profession. We are committed to investing in resources that can help our fellow trial lawyers in their work. We have compiled a list of our most popular resources for those seeking to work with us, or seeking information to help their law firm with a case.
Beasley Allen sends out a Co-Counsel E-Newsletter specifically tailored with lawyers in mind. It features case updates, highlights key victories achieved for our clients, and informs readers about the firm’s latest resources. You can get it online by visiting our website, BeasleyAllen.com and clicking the Articles link.
Beasley Allen hosts a variety of webinars. These webinars feature lawyers in the firm and cover topics related to Beasley Allen cases. Continuing legal education (CLE) credits for Alabama or Georgia are often available for presentations. To register for upcoming events or access past webinars on-demand, visit the website and click on the Events and Webinar page.
We try our best to stay current on the latest significant consumer recalls. Contact our JLB Report Team at [email protected] if you have any questions or believe we may need to include a recall.
The Jere Beasley Report
We also consider The Jere Beasley Report a service to lawyers and the general public. We provide the Report at no cost monthly, both in print and digitally. Visit our website, BeasleyAllen.com and click the Articles link.
TRIAL TIPS FOR LAWYERS
Julia Merritt, a lawyer in our Toxic Torts Section, has some practice tips this month for our lawyer readers. Let’s see what Julia has to say about effective writing.
PRACTICE TIPS: CLEAR AND CONCISE WRITING
When I was accepted at Northwestern University as a naïve but ambitious teen, my uncle, a successful attorney, gave me one piece of advice: find a useful major. Upon graduation with my Poetry Writing degree, he had some doubts. The “poet” in me lived on during my first job after college, where I was a copy editor at the Reporter of Decisions Office for the Supreme Court of Georgia. I reviewed the Supreme Court Justices’ opinions for grammar, which spurred me to attend law school. I have enjoyed applying creative writing techniques to legal arguments over the past eighteen years of practicing law and wanted to share a few suggestions I find quite useful in all forms of writing: verse or brief, sonnet or jury charge.
- Write in active voice over passive voice.
WEAK: Veterans who were exposed to toxic water at Camp Lejeune are represented by Beasley Allen.
STRONGER: Beasley Allen represents veterans harmed by toxic water at Camp Lejeune.
- Avoid cliches.
WEAK: After being unable to work due to her injury, her hospital bill was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
STRONGER: After being unable to work due to her injury, she received a hospital bill which she could not pay, increasing her debt and her distress.
- Vary sentence length for impact.
Paraquat, a total-kill herbicide, accumulates in the human brain and causes Parkinson’s disease. Syngenta knew for decades and did nothing.
- Convert -ion words into verbs.
WEAK: An investigation pursued.
STRONGER: Police investigated the incident.
- Remove redundancies.
Mr. Jones personally observed the farmer spray paraquat.
- Use parallel sentence construction to strengthen an argument.
The firefighters knew spraying AFFF Firefighting Foam would save lives in a fire. The firefighters did not know spraying AFFF Firefighting foam would eventually harm their own lives.
- Finally, sleep on it. The first draft is never the best. Edit, revise, massage your writing, take a break, consider removing that entire first paragraph, and read it one more time (or two, or three more times) before submitting.
As I read Julia’s tips, I realized that my writing skills can definitely be improved. I suspect many of us need help in that important area of our work. Unfortunately, too many of us fail to realize how critically important writing skills are for a trial lawyer.
Lawyer And Employee Spotlights
Rachel Brashier is a Data Entry Specialist in our firm’s Marketing department, where she began her career in May 2017. Rachel is responsible for maintaining the marketing database and lawyer contact information and assists with special projects as needed. We are thankful to have Rachel, who is steadfast in her commitment to excellence in her work, with us!
Rachel has an older brother, Andrew, who currently serves as Prison Fellowship’s legal counsel. Andrew provides legal representation for the nation’s largest Christian Ministry to current and former prisoners and their families. Rachel also has a niece and two nephews, Holland, Beckett, and Colman, whom she adores and enjoys spending time with. In addition to spending time with her niece and nephews, you will find Rachel hiking at Oak Mountain State Park, swimming, traveling, or reading in her free time.
Rachel shares that her team is her favorite thing about working at Beasley Allen. She says:
I love the team that I work with and I have made long-lasting friendships throughout my career here at Beasley Allen!
Khadiga Carr is a lawyer in our Toxic Torts Section. She handles cases in the Paraquat and Camp Lejeune litigation. From aspiring to be the “Black Elle Woods” after watching Legally Blonde to becoming a fierce advocate in the courtroom, Khadiga’s journey into the legal profession is inspiring and passionate. Growing up in what is described as a disadvantaged community and being a first-generation college student, Khadiga encountered numerous obstacles, and she knew adversity all her life. But she says it was the hardships her single mother and so many others in her community faced that kindled in her a drive to provide access to justice for those who had none.
Khadiga says her favorite part of practicing law is the opportunity it provides to help those going through a crisis. She adds:
People seek legal counsel in a crisis, so I hold it as an extreme honor to be able to assist in navigating the crisis and hopefully turning that crisis into a victorious triumph.
She says practicing law is the best way for her to use her passion and skills to help others. Khadiga says further:
I’m just a vessel through which people can get justice, in whatever form or shape that may take. It’s a true honor and nothing short of amazing to me that clients put their crisis and their trust in my hands. I’m very grateful to do this work.
Khadiga comes from Houston, Texas, where she earned her juris doctor and practiced law before joining Beasley Allen. When asked how she likes it at the firm, she replied:
Beasley Allen is different because they truly take the saying ‘One band, one sound’ and elevate it to the highest level. I haven’t been here that long, but I can truly say that joining Beasley Allen feels better than becoming part of a team. It feels like family.
We are blessed to have Khadiga with us. She is a definite asset to the firm and is dedicated to the task of helping others receive justice.
Trent Mann graduated from Auburn University before pursuing a law degree from Cumberland School of Law in Birmingham. He began interning in our firm’s Consumer Fraud & Commercial Litigation Section the summer after his first year of law school and continued to work with us through graduation. Trent is now a lawyer in the section. His work with the section initially focused on employment discrimination cases and qui tam cases involving healthcare fraud. Now, Trent’s focus is geared toward automotive class actions.
Ever since childhood, Trent says he felt called by God to serve. He says:
Once I became familiar with the legal profession, I knew immediately it was the path for me. Being a lawyer gives me a chance to help people the best way I can and an opportunity to help effect real change.
Trent says his favorite part of practicing law is that it poses new challenges every single day. He says there are constantly opportunities to learn and grow as a professional and a person.
Trent says that Beasley Allen stands out among other law firms because everyone at the firm wants to help others succeed and be the best they can be. He adds:
There is always someone willing to lend a helping hand, and I have met so many incredible people during my time at Beasley Allen.
Zina Nour is one of Beasley Allen’s latest lawyer hires. But she is no stranger to the firm. Zina graduated from Arizona State University with a psychology major and a minor in political science before pursuing a law degree from Cumberland School of Law in Birmingham. Zina began clerking for Beasley Allen during her first summer of law school and continued with the firm until she passed the bar and became a licensed lawyer. She is now in the Consumer Fraud & Commercial Litigation Section, working primarily on cases involving fraudulent conduct in the fields of insurance and defective products.
Zina expressed that she became a lawyer because of a natural inclination to stand up for people’s rights and a lot of compassion for those facing a problem. She adds:
I welcome the opportunity to confront and resolve conflicts and overcome challenges. And, I want to positively affect my community and society in general.
According to Zina, her favorite part of practicing law is that it encourages and promotes discussion and argument as a way to uncover the truth. It’s also one of the few professions that allows for an intense analysis of the past in order to make important and guided decisions in the present. She adds:
Most importantly, I am consistently proud to be able to provide a helping hand to those in need in my community and to be able to leave a positive impression of the attorneys at Beasley Allen.
From her first day as a clerk at our firm, Zina was introduced to an environment she describes as “full of integrity and respect for the law and zealousness for clients.” This culture, she says, is what makes Beasley Allen a great place to start and build her career.
Julissa Rodriguez is in the firm’s Mass Torts Section where she works as a Staff Assistant. There, she is a part of the Social Media litigation team. Julissa is also tasked with other projects as needed. She celebrated her first anniversary with the firm in July, and we are fortunate to have Julissa with us! She is dedicated to her work and does an excellent job!
Julissa and her family are huge Disney fans! She says, “Yes, I am one of those Disney adults, and I’ve been able to convert my kids and husband, too!” On the weekends, Julissa shares that she and her husband, Fernando, prioritize trying new food and entertainment, which is their favorite activity! They also love arcades, parks, and the farmer’s market, all in an effort to provide a variety of fun things for their family to do and special memories to make!
Julissa’s favorite thing about working at Beasley Allen is the family-oriented environment. She says:
It’s hard to find an outstanding employer like Beasley Allen, who values family.
Elvira Wilson works in the firm’s Toxic Torts Section in the Montgomery office as an Intake Specialist. Intake Specialists play an important role in the firm because they are typically the first point of contact with potential clients. Elvira is primarily tasked with obtaining as much information as possible from potential clients while maintaining professionalism, understanding, and respect. Elvira has been with the firm for two years and is an asset to her team and the firm!
Elvira and her husband, Christopher, have been married for nearly 13 years. They have three children: Keagan, Jadon, and Sierra. Their eldest, Sierra, will graduate in December with a dual major in Early Childhood Education and Special Education. Their eldest son, Jadon, recently graduated High School, and their youngest, Keagan, enlisted in the United States Marines for June 2024. The Wilsons also have one fur child, who is almost seven years old. In her spare time, Elvira enjoys riding their motorcycle, spontaneous adventures, and crafting.
Elvira’s favorite thing about working at Beasley Allen is her work. She says:
Most times when I think I have finished my work, I can easily find something to do. I like staying busy and productive!
We are thankful to have such a hard-working, dedicated, employee like Elvira with us!
FAVORITE BIBLE VERSES
Lawyers and staff employees who are being featured this month have shared their favorite Bible verses for this issue.
Zina Nour shares two of her favorite bible verses. The first one, she says, is a reminder that even in times where corruption and throwing low blows are acceptable and sometimes even encouraged, doing what is right and what the Lord commands without doubt or hesitation comes with great reward.
Zina feels like this scripture is very applicable to the practice of law. She says that:
Even when the opposing side may be playing dirty, God commands us to remain honest and not fall into the same patterns. Practicing law with confidence in Christ allows me to operate in peace in the midst of chaos and corruption.
Do everything without grumbling and arguing so that you may be blameless and pure, innocent children of God surrounded by people who are crooked and corrupt. Among these people you shine like stars in the world Philippians 2:14-15
Zina’s second verse is another favorite because she says it has been an encouragement to her since beginning college. She says in this scripture, Jesus is pointing out that the attitude towards power and authority is very ungodly, where authoritative figures demand the right to be served and respected by those beneath them. Jesus then goes on to explain that having this type of attitude towards power does not lead to the kingdom of heaven. Instead, He instructs us to serve others in our ambition to be “great.” Jesus describes true greatness as belonging to those who serve and who live as slaves to those they serve. Indeed, the practice of law is all about serving others and making yourself accessible to your clients’ needs and demands. With this verse in mind, Zina is encouraged to continue serving her community and future clients, knowing that she’s aiming towards the Lord’s standards and living an example of Christ’s humility.
…Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. Matthew 20:26-28
Khadiga Carr shares three of her favorite bible verses with us this month.
God’s Spirit makes us loving, happy, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled. Galatians 5:22-24
“The LORD is my light and my salvation– whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life– of whom shall I be afraid? When evil men advance against me to devour my flesh, when my enemies and my foes attack me, they will stumble and fall.” Psalm 27:1-2
“Love is patient and kind, never jealous, boastful, proud or rude.” I Corinthian 13:4
Trent Mann shares three of his favorite bible verses. The first is one that Trent says he always finds comforting. He adds:
I keep a small plaque on my desk with this verse. It reminds me to always trust in the Lord even when things aren’t going right.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5
Trent says the second verse always gives him strength, adding that no matter what, God has a plan for each and every one of us. He will not let us down.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11
Trent says his third verse is what being a lawyer is all about. He says this verse, even if short, encompasses so many great lessons.
Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow. Isaiah 1:17
The Removal Of The Speaker Of The House Made History
At press time for this issue, there is not a Speaker in place for the U.S. House of Representatives. In an unprecedented turn of events on Capitol Hill, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy was ousted from his position on October 3. That makes history, but not in a good way.
While I am not a fan of McCarthy or his politics, I recognize that removing any House Speaker will have serious repercussions for the nation and our democracy. When one considers all that has happened worldwide since October 3, it’s evident that Congress needs to be able to operate. The current situation is quite sad and quite dangerous.
The Speaker of the House is one of the most powerful positions in the U.S. government. Guiding legislation, setting the legislative agenda, and providing a crucial check and balance to the Presidency are all responsibilities that fall on the Speaker. It should be noted that this position stands second in line to the Presidency after the Vice President.
Regardless of one’s political leanings, McCarthy’s removal raises heavy concerns about the health of our uniquely successful American democracy. It also imperils our national security as two major wars disrupt the volatile balance of peace in the world. We are witnessing two ongoing wars, one raging in Eastern Europe. The second, between Israel and Hamas, a terrorist group, adds fuel to this volatile fire. A sudden shift in leadership and a vacant speakership has disrupted the legislative process and created uncertainty about our nation’s ability to address critical issues.
This crisis, and potentially many others to come, are born of an evenly divided Congress and a very small group of radical Republicans who will continue to take advantage of this division in order to push their personal agendas, even if it means holding our nation and its leadership hostage to do so.
Disagreement and infighting within our government in Washington are nothing new. But the growing lack of unity and sparse cooperation across party lines has been a growing concern for some time. It’s now worse than ever. McCarthy’s removal is a manifestation of this growing problem. Political disagreements are an integral part of any democracy, but they should be resolved through dialogue, debate, and ultimately, the will of the electorate. Unfortunately, those days appear to be over in our nation’s capital. In any event, we can’t allow a small radical fringe group to take advantage of the fragile balance between ideological beliefs in our nation.
It is essential to remember that democracy thrives when there is respect for democratic norms, institutions, and the rule of law. Regardless of our political affiliation, each of us must advocate for a system where political disputes are settled through democratic means. That means all of us must respect the principles that underpin the foundations of our democracy.
We must reflect on the importance of preserving democratic norms and principles, even when we may not agree with a particular political leader or that person’s policies. Only through such reflection can we hope to navigate the challenges facing our nation and our form of government and ensure its continued strength and resilience on the world stage.
In order to save our nation, all Americans must get busy and do their part. We must insist that our leaders get to work and do their jobs. We must also pray for our country and for our leaders in both political parties. That includes President Joe Biden, who leads our nation, and the leaders in both the House and Senate. We must demand that our political leaders put “politics” aside for now and work together for the common good.
I also recommend reading 1 Chronicles 7:14 and for us to let God’s will be done in all things, including in government and politics.
Hopefully, by the time this part of the Report is being read, the House will have a newly elected Speaker and will be back at work. There is much to be done without delay.
God bless America!
OUR MONTHLY REMINDERS
The following are the monthly reminders for all of us at Beasley Allen. These reminders are put in the Report for a purpose and that purpose is for them to be applied both in the workplace and at home. The remedies are recommended for all at Beasley Allen and to our readers outside Beasley Allen, including our political leaders. In fact, any person in a leadership role should read the quotes and apply the lessons learned from them in their daily lives.
If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
2 Chron 7:14
All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe nor politic nor popular, but he must take it because his conscience tells him it is right.
The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Get in good trouble, necessary trouble, and help redeem the soul of America.
Rep. John Lewis speaking on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, on March 1, 2020
Ours is not the struggle of one day, one week, or one year. Ours is not the struggle of one judicial appointment or presidential term. Ours is the struggle of a lifetime, or maybe even many lifetimes, and each one of us in every generation must do our part.
Rep. John Lewis on movement building in Across That Bridge: A Vision for Change and the Future of America
The opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice.
Bryan Stevenson, 2019
I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country….corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed.
U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, Nov. 21, 1864
Unchecked Hate And The Power Of Sin: The Israel-Hamas War
As I watch the television news each night, the unsettling reports and horrifying images of the Israel-Hamas war flash across the screen. The horrors of this war, amplified by real-time media coverage, bear witness to the deeply rooted conflict that has already claimed thousands of lives in a relatively short period of time.
This war began with a series of horrific terrorist attacks, the slaughtering of innocent men, women, and children, and the ruthless kidnappings of innocent Israelis and persons from other countries. It’s unfathomable that any human being, or group of human beings, could be so consumed with hatred and evil that they would commit such atrocities. Sadly, women and children, including babies, were not spared. Entire families were executed by Hamas terrorists. Young people enjoying a music festival promoting peace were systematically slaughtered – on site.
Hamas’ appalling crimes against civilians, including women, children, and babies, violate the most basic moral dictates of the universe. They are manifestations of evil in its purest, most heartless, and ruthless form. Sadly, and most unfortunately, Hamas’ actions have done nothing to advance the pursuit of peace and justice for the citizens of Gaza or for all Palestinian people – Muslims and Christians – for that matter. In fact, Hamas has only unleashed a firestorm of terror that is destroying entire communities. These crimes may have laid waste to any hope for a peace agreement with Israel. Thus, the peace that so many Israelis and Palestinians crave is further out of reach. At least, it is for the foreseeable future.
But how do we reconcile the unimaginable with our understanding of God’s love and mercy? Like my brother-in-Christ, John Ed Mathison, recently wrote:
I believe humankind can commit horrific acts because of sin, because sin separates us from God and God’s love. Sin opens the doors for people to do unimaginable things to one another.
We must all pray for an end to the ongoing war and for peace in the region. The sole mission of Hamas is to kill all Jews. Without any doubt, Hamas is a terrorist group that committed war crimes in Israel. The U.S. must support Israel and oppose Hamas. But the killing of innocent people in Gaza is not the answer. Only God can resolve the dilemma that presents itself as Israel contemplates how to destroy Hamas without killing innocent people in Gaza. We must understand that Hamas is the enemy, and the terrorist group must be destroyed! But we must also realize there are innocent people in Gaza who must be saved to the extent possible. My prayer is that God will provide a solution that will end the war and bring about peace.