January 10, 2014

Huge Gas Line Explosion at Enka Plant

Gas Line Fire Enka.jpgLocal residents near the old Enka Plant near Asheville heard a huge explosion late this afternoon. Then the ground shook like it was an earthquake. People near the explosion immediately suspected something had happened on the old Enka Plant campus. Then those close to the plant could see a huge flame of fire rising into the sky. Fire Department sirens were soon heard and fire trucks were seen approaching the explosion site.

The gas line that is on fire is located near Sandhill Road. The closest business is the Jacob Holms plant. Jacob Holm Industries, founded in 1794, is headquartered globally in Basel, Switzerland. The Buncombe County facility is the headquarters for its U.S. subsidiary. Jacob Holm Industries is one of the world's leading nonwoven corporations, offering high-quality products for the personal care, home care, hygiene, packaging and industrial markets.

An Asheville Fire Department spokesman said that a 12 inch gas line had exploded. Those living in close proximity to the fire have been evacuated to the Enka Baptist Church. Firefighters are now trying to control the blaze. It is unknown at this time whether anyone was injured or what caused the huge explosion. Most often gas lines do not explode without some external cause. Generally, there is a breakdown in some process that leads to a gas explosion.

March 14, 2013

North Carolina Legislators Taking Away Workers' Rights

workers-rights.jpgYesterday, two state Senators filed a new legislative bill that is designed to take away some very important rights to the working citizens of North Carolina. The new bill adversely changes the existing worker's compensation laws. Worker's compensation is the body of law that sets out the rules that apply when someone is injured on the job.

Worker's compensation benefits only cover lost wages and medical bills. The injured worker is not compensated for pain and suffering, mental or emotional anguish and other damages. In other words, the worker's right to recover is quite limited under worker's compensation. When someone is hurt on the job, worker's compensation is usually the worker's only remedy under the law. You cannot sue your employer even if your employer recklessly caused you to get hurt.

In some instances, when someone is injured on the job, there is a third person or entity that actually caused the on-the-job injury. For example, if a construction worker is hauling a load of lumber from a lumber company to a job site, and some third person runs a red light, crashes into him, and injures him, then the worker would receive worker's compensation benefits because he was injured on-the-job, but the third person (the at-fault driver) would also be liable to the injured worker.

In situations where the injury was caused by a third person, the employer's worker's compensation insurance company would have a "lien" (right to be paid back) against the worker's recovery from the third person's insurance company. The current law says that the employer's worker's compensation insurance company has a right to be paid back all (100%) of its lien, but that a Superior Court Judge can reduce that lien to an amount that the judge feels is fair so that justice is served to everyone involved.

In most situations, cases against third parties are settled or compromised for various reasons. Once a third party claim is settled, then the attorney for the injured worker and the attorney for the employer's worker's compensation insurance company usually work out a deal with regard to the employer's lien. If a deal cannot be reached about how much of the lien should be paid back, then the parties ask a Superior Court judge to decide what is fair.

CapitalBuilding.jpgThe new bill would chip-away at that last step, and instead give the employer the right to say whether a lien can be reduced more than 50%. In our experience, employers are usually aligned with their worker's compensation insurance company and oppose any reduction in the lien amount.

The BOTTOM LINE is that injured workers are about to see their right to recover fair compensation for their injuries further reduced so that insurance companies can continue to post ever increasing profits. "Pro-Business" and "Pro-Insurance Company" are the new mantras of our legislature.

If you are concerned about this, you can contact the legislators in your district and let them know that you do not want this bill passed into law. Here is a link to our state senators: http://www.ncleg.net/gascripts/members/reports/room-phone.pl?Chamber=senate&viewType=normal.

Here is a link to our state house representatives: http://www.ncleg.net/gascripts/members/memberList.pl?sChamber=House.

February 21, 2013

US Supreme Court to Rule in NC Medicaid Reimbursement Case

US Sup Ct.jpgThe US Supreme Court recently heard oral arguments in a North Carolina case that could decide how 34 states recover for Medicaid benefits when the Medicaid recipient obtains a financial recovery from a negligent third party (Delia v. E.M.A., No. 12-98 (U.S. argued Jan. 8, 2013).

The North Carolina case involved a 13 year old little girl who suffered catastrophic injuries at birth as the result of medical negligence. The case settled for a discounted value ($2.8 million) in part due to the doctor's limited insurance coverage. Her lawyers argued that the girl's damages exceeded $42 million. Medicaid successfully argued that they were entitled to one-third of the little girls' recovery as reimbursement for money they had paid toward her medical care. The little girl's attorneys argued that Medicaid was not entitled to assert a lien against the recovery based on Federal preemption.

The case is significant for anyone who is a Medicaid recipient and who suffers injury as a result of someone else's negligence. In tort cases where there is a Medicaid lien, there is often a battle over how much does the recipient have to pay back to Medicaid. In most cases where North Carolina Medicaid has paid benefits, the injured person ends up having to pay back all of the money that North Carolina Medicaid paid toward the injured person's medical expenses. In cases where the amount recovered by the injured person is less than the full value of the case (e.g. where there is not sufficient insurance coverage), the Medicaid Lien is reduced to one-third of the recovery based on the North Carolina Lien Reduction Statute.

At issue in the US Supreme Court is whether the North Carolina statute is preempted by the Federal Medicaid Act.

Watch for the Supreme Court decision sometime in June, 2013.

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February 20, 2013

Toddler Deaths Prompt Million Dollar Baby to Recall Dressers

dresser.jpgYoung children love to climb. They can climb onto anything, including tables, bookcases, chest of drawers, TV stands, and open oven doors. They can climb quickly, when you turn your back, when you run to the bathroom, when you put them in their room for a nap.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that at least one child dies every 2 weeks as a result of suffocating while trapped under a piece of furniture that has turned over on to them. In addition, CPSC staff estimates that more than 22,000 children 8 years old and younger were treated for injuries at local hospital emergency rooms for injuries resulting from tip-over incidents between 2008 to 2010.These are tragic and unnecessary deaths. Parents understandably feel responsible and guilty after something like this happens. But how is a parent supposed to know about this danger?

The reality is that most parents do not know about the potential danger posed by these innocuous pieces of furniture, but the manufacturers of these products know only too well about the lurking dangers. Children have been dying and parents have been suing these manufacturers for this very problem for over a decade.To sell these products without the necessary safety equipment to make them safe for children is incredibly callous and unconscionable because these manufacturers know that if it is not "if" these tragedies are going to happen, but "when" and "how often."

This week, Bexco Enterprises Inc., dba Million Dollar Baby of Montebello, Calif. is announcing a voluntary recall of 18,000 children's four-drawer dressers. The CPSC and Million Dollar Baby have received two reports of deaths associated with these dressers. One child's parents filed a lawsuit in California as a result of their child's death. That case recently settled, and it is suspected that the voluntary recall is one of the terms of the settlement.

This dresser recall involves "Emily" style four-drawer dressers with model numbers M4712, M4722, M4732 and M4742 and similar "Ryan" dressers with the model M4733. The recalled dresser measures 33-inches high by 20-inches deep by 40-inches wide and is a part of the DaVinci children's bedroom furniture collection.

The recalled dressers were sold at JCPenney and independent juvenile specialty stores nationwide and online at Amazon.com, BabiesRUs.com, BabyUniverse.com and other online retailers from January 2006 through June 2010 for around $300.

While the Million Dollar Baby dressers met voluntary safety standards when first produced, a May 2009 voluntary industry standard, and subsequent revisions published in October 2009 and November 2009, required that tip-over restraints be sold with the dressers. The restraints attach to the wall with screws, framing or other support to help prevent dresser tip-over entrapment hazards for small kids. Million Dollar Baby is offering free retrofit kits with tip-over restraints to consumers who have older dressers.

Consumers can contact Million Dollar Baby to receive a free retrofit kit that contains a wall anchor strap, which attaches to the dresser and wall to help prevent the dresser from tipping. The kits can be ordered by visiting the firm's website at www.themdbfamily.com/safety2 and click on Safety HQ or call toll-free at (888) 673-6652 between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. PT Monday through Friday.

February 19, 2013

"Magnet Balls" Pose Danger to Kids - Recalled by Feds

Magnet Balls are a very popular desktop toy on the market right now. The small 5mm diameter balls are extremely strong for their size and can be molded into any shape imaginable. The magnets are made of the rare earth neodynium and are at least 15 times more powerful than normal magnets.

These little balls stick together with such force that, if they are accidentally swallowed, they can cut holes in the stomach or intestines. Life-threatening injuries like perforations, sepsis and blockages can occur within hours following ingestion. They are manufactured by several different companies and marketed in slim plastic tubes filled with 216 shiny magnetic balls. So who in the world would ever put them in their mouth and swallow them? Young kids and teenagers apparently.

A recent study says that hundreds of children and teens have been treated by physicians, with dozens needing surgery for injuries, in just the past two years after swallowing the super-strong magnetic balls, despite bold labels and warnings to keep them away from children.

The U.S. consumer product watchdog, CPSC, recalled the magnet toys. The balls are sold under brand names such as Buckyballs, Zen Magnets, and NeoCube, which was the first of these toys to hit the market in 2008. While most manufacturers and importers say they will comply with the CPSC recall, two are fighting the recall. The CPSC has sued these manufacturers to force them to stop selling the dangerous product.

The latest study is based on reports compiled by the North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition. That study found a total of 480 cases in which children or teens swallowed the tiny magnets, with 204 incidents occurring in just the past 12 months. Approximately 80 percent of those incidents required endoscopy or surgery.

More than 50 percent of the cases involved children six years old or younger; 16 percent involved teenagers, who use the magnets to mimic tongue, lip, and nose piercings. Teenagers are putting one magnet under their tongue and one magnet on the top of their tongue to make it appear like a piercing.

If you have some of these magnets and you also have young kids or teenagers, you should either make sure that the balls are safe and secure, or simply trash them. If you want your money back, you can return them to the seller for a full refund under the recall.

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February 7, 2013

Beware of Counterfeit Drugs

counterfeit drugs.jpgcounterfeit drugs1.jpg
More and more generic drugs are turning out to be COUNTERFEIT! A counterfeit drug is one that is marketed and sold as the real drug, but in actuality it is missing one or more of the key active ingredients. Taking such drugs can be dangerous and hazardous to your health. Headlines have recently discussed the popular flu remedy Tamiflu as having a counterfeit on the market.

Yesterday, the FDA announced that it had identified another counterfeit cancer drug. The drug is a generic counterfeit version of the cancer drug Avastin. This is the third case involving the best-selling Roche drug in the past year. The FDA is notifying and warning doctors about this latest counterfeit.

Most of these counterfeit drugs are found on-line at discount pharmacies. The on-line pharmacies that are selling counterfeit drugs have websites that look professional and authentic. But, as the old saying goes, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is! So, beware consumers, if the price of the drug is unbelievably low, it is probably a fake. Buyers of on-line drugs must be careful that they are dealing with reputable pharmacies.

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January 29, 2013

Bus Crash Last Night - Did Driver Fall Asleep?

Imagine a city bus full of passengers heading down a busy city street. The bus driver slumps over in his seat. The bus blows through a red light and T-bones a car, sending it spinning around in the street. Just like in the movies, the bus keeps crashing into cars and taxis as it careens through intersections. This scenario happened in New York City last night. The driver lost consciousness while going north on Madison Avenue near East 81st at around 7:05 p.m.

A frightened but quick thinking passenger, Guy Praisler, rushed to the front of the bus, jerked at the driver and grabbed the wheel. hero bus crash.JPG The driver then woke-up and hit the brakes.

Really?? Now the bus driver claims to have fainted. As someone who has investigated dozens of bus and truck crashes, this sounds like a classic case of a fatigued bus driver falling asleep behind the wheel. The statistics would certainly indicate that fatigue is the most likely cause of this crash.

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November 28, 2012

Defective Trampoline Recalled by Feds

trampoline.jpgIf you bought a trampoline for your kids between 2005 and 2012, you should pay attention. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) in conjunction with Sportspower Ltd, of Hong Kong issued a voluntary recall of the firm's best selling trampoline. More than 24,000 defective trampolines were sold at Sports Authority stores throughout the US during the last 7 years. The trampolines sold for approximately $600.00. What is not surprising is that these dangerous trampolines were made in China.

The hazard presented by these defective products is that the folding legs on which the trampoline sits can move out of position and cut through to the jumping area, creating a risk of severe injury or death, including deep, penetrating puncture wounds, cuts and bruises to children and adults bouncing on the trampoline.

The trampoline being recalled is the Parkside model TR-14FT-COM. The trampolines were sold with an enclosure net and are 14 feet in diameter.

If you purchased one of these trampolines, you should stop using it immediately and contact the manufacturer toll-free at (888) 965-0565, from 9 to 5 Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday, or online at www.sportspowerltd.net, or you can email customerservice@sportspowerltd.net for more information.

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November 25, 2012

Driving & Talking Ban in North Carolina Unlikely in 2013

Cell phone map.jpegOnly four states in the U.S. currently ban cell phone use while driving. Florida appears ready to join the list, as the newest version of a bill banning all cell phone use while driving has just been filed. North Carolina will probably not be joining that list anytime soon.

Last year, during the 2011-2012 Legislative sessions, Garland Pierce, Democrat-Scotland, introduced a bill banning all cell phone use. The bill encountered significant opposition while it was in committee, most notably from Senate Pro Tem Phil Berger. Several committee members remarked that they felt the bill infringed on citizens' rights. What they could not articulate was which specific rights they felt the bill might be infringing upon. That outcry was enough to effectively kill the bill, as Representative Pierce withdrew the bill, rather than have it die a slow death in committee.

One town in North Carolina, Chapel Hill, has shown some independent responsibility by banning all cell phone use within the town's city limits. That sounds pretty strong, but the law had so many loopholes that it was really just a symbolic law aimed at spurring the North Carolina Legislature to act responsibly and pass a stronger state law restricting cell phone use. The Chapel Hill law was over-turned by a Superior Court Judge in August in a ruling that found the town ordinance was preempted by the current state law that limits cell phone use while driving.

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November 1, 2012

Chronic Pain Injections in NC Tainted with Deadly Meningitis

epidural injections.jpgA pharmaceutical company, New England Compounding Center of Massachusetts, has sold and delivered a tainted batch of steriod injections to doctors' offices across the US. The injections are tained with a deadly strain of meningitis. The tainted injections have been blamed for at least 14 deaths thus far.

To date, almost 14,000 people have been given the bad medicine. Most of the people who have received the injections were given the medicine as a form of pain treatment for chronic back problems.

A Minnesota woman filed the first lawsuit last week in a federal court. She told the media that said she has experienced a high fever and nausea after getting an injection, and that she is anxiously awaiting test results.

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October 28, 2012

Monster Energy (Or "Injury") Drink??? Teens Beware!

monster injury drink.jpgFive death reports have been reported to the FDA alleging a direct link to consuming Monster Energy drink. The number of emergency room visits as a result of drinking an energy drink has dramatically risen 10 fold in the last 4 years. The FDA is finally investigating the alleged link.

The FDA does not regulate the amount of caffeine in energy drinks, which can be marketed as dietary supplements. Very high amounts of caffeine can cause dangerous irregular heart rhythms and can even be fatal for those with undiagnosed heart conditions. Perhaps a warning label would help.

Teenager Anais Fournier was at home watching a movie when she went into cardiac arrest last December. Unconscious, Anais was rushed to the hospital. In an effort to save her life, doctors put Anais in an induced coma to reduce the brain swelling. Six days later she was removed from life support. The cause of death was caffeine toxicity according her doctors, the autopsy and death certificate.

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October 11, 2012

Teen Drivers Can Create Serious Liability For Parents

teen driver 1.jpgEvery so often, we have to do things that we would rather not do, if we had the option. For me, going to the dentist every six months to get my teeth cleaned falls into this category. During my dental visit yesterday, my hygienist told me about her son who just turned sixteen. "He now has his driver's license, and we bought him a Jeep," she told me with some anxiety in her voice. Having younger children myself, this peeked my curiosity.

She went on to tell me that they had titled the Jeep in her and her husband's name and added the son to their car insurance policy. At this point, the lawyer in me came alive. "Do you understand that if he gets into a wreck and hurts someone, you could get sued," I asked? She looked surprised, and said, "you've got to be kidding? How?"

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October 3, 2012

State Safety Chiefs Push to Ban Cell Phones & Driving

cell phones while driving ban.jpgLast week, a coalition of safety chiefs from all across the country convened to discuss ways to reduce the steadily rising number of deaths and injuries in car crashes caused by cell phone use. This group, the Governors Highway Safety Association, caries some serious clout. Each member is the chief safety officer of his/her respective state.

While some states have enacted laws to curb the use of cell phones, most states have been hesitant to take action because of legislative fears from a public outcry. The statistics are beyond shocking:

2,600 people are killed each year as a result of using cellphones while driving. estimates are that another 330,000 are injured.

21% of fatal car crashes involving teenagers between the ages of 16 and 19 were the result of cell phone usage. This result has been expected to grow as much as 4% every year.

Talking on a cell phone causes nearly 25% of car accidents. Source: the National Safety Counsel

4 out of every 5 accidents (80%) are attributed to distracted drivers. In contrast, drunk drivers account for roughly 1 out of 3 (33%) of all accidents nationally.

Texting while driving is about 6 times more likely to result in an accident than driving while intoxicated.

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September 29, 2012

Coppertone's Tan Fading

Coppertone.jpgThe owner of Coppertone suntan products, pharmaceutical giant Merck, agreed to pay between $3 Million and $10 Million to settle a decade old class action. The lawsuit claimed that the company made false statements about the benefits of using its products. Many people felt that they had been misled by the company's claims that its suntan products provided "all day protection", that they were "waterproof", or "sweat proof."

Merck denied any wrongdoing as a result of the settlement, and they denied that anyone was injured as a result of their conduct. As with many big class action cases, the consumers are the one that really appear to be getting burned. Each consumer that joined the claim will be receiving a check from Merck for approximately $1.50.

Interestingly, Merck agreed that all of its suntan products manufactured after June 22, 2012 will not include the language "all day protection," waterproof," or "sweat proof." So, you may be seeing Coppertone labels next summer like, "Use Coppertone because it smells the best!" or "Buy Coppertone - We guarantee you'll get some sun!"

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August 19, 2012

GM & Isuzu SUVs Recalled Due to Fire Hazard

GM SUV fire.jpegDefective door lock and window switches in more than 258,000 SUVs have led General Motors and Isuzu to recall the vehicles due to a fire hazard. The recall includes Chevrolet Trailblazer, GMC Envoy, Buick Rainier, Isuzu Ascender and Saab 97-X SUVs from the 2006 and 2007 model years.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that water may enter the driver's door and cause corrosion that could result in a short in the circuit board. The short may cause overheating, which can melt wires and switches, producing a foul odor, smoke, or a fire.

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