March 25, 2010

Boy Scout "Perversion Files" May Reveal Abuse In North Carolina

Boy Scouts.jpgThe Boy Scouts of America, one of the most respected organizations in the world, has kept secret files for decades on Scout leaders who have been accused of and caught sexually abusing young boys. The leadership of the Scouts have allegedly referred to the files as the "perversion files," and they have fought long and hard to keep the files from being made public. These sex files have only been seen by the public in one other case in the 1980s.

Dozens of lawsuits against the Boy Scouts have been filed over the years alleging sexual abuse by Scout leaders, but judges for the most part have denied access to the sex files or the Scouts have settled the lawsuits before trial. Attorneys for the plaintiff in the Oregon case contend that the sex files show a pattern by Scout officials of ignoring suspected abuse or allowing pedophiles to return to their leadership roles. The attorneys represent a 37 year old Oregon man who was abused by a Scout leader in the 1980s. The defendant in the Oregon case has admitted abusing 17 out of the 30 boys in his troop.

One document from the files, by a Scout leader in an undisclosed town, states that a Scoutmaster who admittedly slept in the nude and showed pornography to Cub Scouts showed bad judgment, but shouldn't be dismissed. Another document noted that a Scoutmaster who admitted sexual abuse was allowed to return to his duties after seeing a psychiatrist. Such evidence could certainly cause reasonable jurors to conclude that the Boy Scouts of America intentionally continued to expose young boys to sexually abusive leaders. Such intentional conduct could result in a substantial punitive damages verdict in the Oregon case.

There are over 4.5 million young boys between 7 and 20 years of age involved in the Scouts, and the Scouts have more than 300 leadership councils throughout the US. With thousands of Scouts in North Carolina, it is likely that some of those have also been abused by Scout leaders.

A spokesman for the Boys Scouts of America, Deron Smith, said "unfortunately, child abuse is a societal problem and there is no fail-safe method for screening out abusers." While this may be a technically true statement, there are proven methods for preventing child sexual abuse. As I have previously written, the most important rule any youth organization must have is a firm policy that prevents one adult to be alone with one child at any time. You can read about ways for preventing child sex abuse at Darkness To Light.

At Davis Law Group, we have successfully represented those who have been sexually abused by trusted adults. If you have any questions about your legal rights, feel free to call and discuss your situation with an attorney who is experienced representing those who have been sexually abused.

March 22, 2010

Asheville Residents Call For Investigation Of CTS Site

Thumbnail image for CTS Contamination 1.jpgFor years, those living near the former CTS Corporation on Mills Gap Road in Asheville have complained of foul smelling tap water, contaminated ground water, and health problems neighbors believe are caused by the dumping of the dangerous solvent TCE. Despite the documented pollution, no clean-up has occurred, and CTS refuses to accept responsibility.

Concerned citizens from Asheville gathered in Skyland last week and called for investigations by Congress and the North Carolina Attorney General's Office regarding alleged mistakes and cover-ups by those charged with investigating the pollution at the former CTS/Mills Gap site.

The citizens group criticized a recent report released by the North Carolina Division of Public Health. That report concluded that private well samples collected over the last 10 years did not pose a danger to the public health because those living in the area no longer use their private wells or the levels in the wells that are still in use are too low to cause harm. The report's conclusion is evasive and vague. The only reason the private well water of those living close to the former CTS site is not harmful is because those residents have stopped drinking the water. The citizens group clearly has a valid point.

Further investigation is warranted, and a major clean-up is needed to restore this area in Buncombe County to its unpolluted condition. CTS should step up financially and make right the wrong it has inflicted. Dumping industrial solvents onto the ground near a residential area is idiotic and indicates a reckless indifference to the rights and safety of those living in close proximity to the site.

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March 18, 2010

Popular High Chair Poses Danger to North Carolina Children

gracochair.jpgThe Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has announced a recall of over 1.2 million Graco "Harmony" high chairs. Fourteen injuries have been reported from children falling out of the chairs because the screws holding the front legs of the high chair can loosen and fall out. The plastic brackets that hold the legs together can also crack, causing the chair to suddenly tip over. The injuries reported include cuts, bruises and scratches to infants heads, arms and legs from the falls. One parent reported a broken arm. If you own a Graco Harmony High Chair, you are asked to call 1-800-345-4109 to get a repair kit.

This is the latest of many recalls issued by Graco over the last several years. Prior recalls have involved child car safety seats, bassinets, strollers, booster seats and cribs. The company uses cheap and unreliable materials in its products in order to keep manufacturing costs down and profits high. Such conduct has led to multi-million dollar fines against Graco by the CPSC and also several multi-million dollar jury verdicts, including one verdict for $11.3 Million. These fines and verdicts have yet to get Graco's attention, in that they continue making and marketing cheaply made and unsafe child products.

If your child or the child of a loved one was seriously injured because of defective crib, car seat or other child product, you may want to contact a defective product attorney about a possible product liability lawsuit.

March 17, 2010

Why Everyone in North Carolina Needs More Than The Minimum Limits of Car Insurance

head on collision.jpgIf you have less than $100,000 in car insurance on your vehicle, you are rolling the dice and risking financial ruin every time you drive your car. In North Carolina, the minimum amount of insurance coverage required by law is $30,000. But what most insurance agents fail to tell you is that unless you purchase more than the minimum limits of coverage, you are really not protecting yourself or your family from irresponsible drivers, particularly younger drivers. Here's why.

Last week, one of our new clients was on her way home from work, and the traffic in front of her slowed to a stop because a car had stopped to make a left hand turn. She also slowed down and stopped. Ten seconds later, she looked up just in time to see a large SUV barreling down on her. She recalls starting to yell, but the next thing she remembers is waking up in a hospital bed 3 days later. After 2 weeks in the trauma unit and 3 surgeries later, she is trying to figure out how to pay for her hospital bills. Unfortunately, the young girl who did not see her because she was texting and driving has the minimum limits of insurance coverage - this means that the most the young girl's insurance company will ever pay is $30,000. The client's medical bills are over $100,000 already, and she still has months of rehab to complete before she can return to work. There is a way to protect yourself from this very real risk.

You should tell your insurance agent that you want to have at least $100,000 in Uninsured Motorist (UM) and Under-Insured Motorist (UIM) coverage. The increase in your premium should be less than $50 every six months. If you are able, you should ideally purchase a $1 Million umbrella policy that also provides you with UM and UIM coverage. This is the best way to make sure that, if you or a loved one is seriously injured in a car accident, you have the insurance coverage to compensate you for your losses, such as medical bills and lost wages.

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March 12, 2010

Asheville Music Minister Pleads Guilty to Producing Child Porn

darkness to light.gifThe former music minister at St. Eugene's Catholic Church pleaded guilty yesterday to coercing a 13 year old girl to engage in sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of producing a child porn video. Paul Lawrence Berrell, 29, faces between 15 and 30 years in prison. Hopefully, the Federal District Court Judge who sentences him will give him the maximum prison term.

Unfortunately, sexual abuse of children happens much more often than most people think, and the statistics of child sex abuse are shocking!

According to the advocacy group Darkness to Light, 1 in 4 girls are sexually abused and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused before they reach age 18. Thirty to forty percent of children are abused by a family member. Another 50% are abused by someone outside of the family that they know and trust. Approximately 40% are abused by an older or larger child whom they know. That leaves only 10% to be abused by a stranger.

Child sexual abuse is the least known epidemic in our society. The biggest thing that you can do to protect your children and prevent this from happening to a child that you know is to get actively involved in the prevention effort. Darkness to Light is a national non-profit organization dedicated to preventing child sexual abuse. If you want to stop child sex abuse, go to their website and get involved.

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March 11, 2010

Police Charge Asheville Wrong Way Driver

Wrong way car.jpgNorth Carolina State Troopers have charged a Brevard man for driving the wrong way on Interstate 26 between Asheville and Hendersonville. The wrong way driver, James Mint Barton, age 65, apparently traveled at least 15 miles in the wrong lanes before he was apprehended by State Troopers. He told Troopers that he was on his way to the Asheville Airport.

Not surprisingly, Troopers charged Barton with Driving While Impaired. Trooper RE Baker stated that Barton was also charged with reckless driving and driving the wrong way on a dual lane highway. Barton ran several cars off the Interstate during his extreme drunk driving, but fortunately no accidents occurred and no one was injured.

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March 8, 2010

North Carolina Firefighters May Seek Damages for Hearing Loss

Asheville fire truck.jpgA recent verdict in Pennsylvania may open the way for firefighters in North Carolina and across the country to recover damages for hearing loss caused by defective sirens. Most cases filed against the manufacturers of firetruck sirens have been dismissed by various courts around the country, but that may be changing.

In the first case to go to trial in Philadelphia, a state court jury found that Federal Signal Corporation negligently designed the Q-Sirens it sold the the City of Philadelphia, and that those sirens were a cause of firefighter Edward Smyl's hearing loss. The lawsuit alleged that the sirens were defective because they emitted such an intense noise that it caused permanent hearing damage to the firefighter. The jury's verdict found that the firefighter was entitled to $100,000.00 in damages. This is a huge victory for firefighters in North Carolina and across the nation.

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March 5, 2010

Toyota Recall Not Fixing Some Vehicles In North Carolina

toyota accelerator.jpgThe National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) has received more than 60 reports from Toyota owners who claim they have experienced sudden acceleration events after having their cars fixed for the very same problem. The safety agency is in the process of contacting each of the owners to gather more details about the reports. Many safety experts and those in the industry believe that Toyota's problem is electronic and not mechanical as the largest automaker in the world has claimed. The recall involves installing a metal piece the size of a postage stamp and shortening the length of the accelerator. As I have mentioned in prior posts, Toyota so far has recalled over 8 million vehicles.

Many of those who have been seriously injured or killed in sudden acceleration events have sued Toyota for selling a dangerous and defective vehicle. Click here to see a copy of one of the complaints. One hot issue in all of these lawsuits has been the information contained in each vehicle's black box. Each Toyota has a black box, like those on airplanes, that records various data when the vehicle is in a crash - such as speed, whether the accelerator was depressed or whether the brake pedal was depressed. Toyota has fought tooth and nail to keep from having to turn over any of the specifics about the black boxes in these cases. Toyota has settled most of these cases out of court, but several are pending. This author thinks Toyota is afraid to have their black box information made public for a very good reason.

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March 4, 2010

North Carolina Legislature Should Ban BPA In Children's Products

BPA products for kids.jpegWisconsin's governor signed a bill into law yesterday that bans the dangerous chemical bisphenol-A (BPA) in all cups sold in Wisconsin for children three years and younger. The ban will cover baby bottles, sippy cups and other similar products used by young children. Many studies have found that BPA is an endocrine-disrupter in animals, including early sexual maturation, altered development of the mammary gland and decreased sperm production in offspring.

A recent FDA announcement indicated "some concern" about how BPA may affect babies and children. The federal agency has now put $30 million aside for additional research studies over the next 2 years. Last year, a Harvard study found that participants who drank for one week from the popular polycarbonate (hard plastic) bottles, commonly used as water and baby bottles, had a 66% increase of BPA in their urine. The study concluded that BPA is leached from the container into the blood stream in sufficient quantities to show up in the urine.

The dangerous chemical has already been banned in Minnesota, Connecticut, the city of Chicago, and three counties in New York. Legislation to ban BPA in childrens' products is currently pending in Washington, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont and Washington, D.C. Canada was the first country to pass a nationwide ban of BPA. The North Carolina Legislature should take steps to protect all North Carolina children from BPA because children do not get to chose the type of container from which they drink.

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March 3, 2010

North Carolina Earthquakes - Should We Prepare?

Earthquake Haiti.jpgWith the recent catastrophic earthquakes in Haiti and Chile, there is much talk about being prepared for an earthquake, particularly on the west coast in places like southern California. But what about the east coast? Are we at risk for a big quake in western North Carolina?

Reviewing the history of earthquakes in North Carolina would suggest that we do have some degree of risk, though it appears to be quite low. There have been a number of earthquakes in North Carolina over the last couple of hundred years, but none of them have caused severe damage. Most of the damage from these quakes involved cracked chimneys, broken dishes and windows, and other minor property damage. That said, we do live near the Eastern Tennessee Seismic Zone, and a large quake in that zone would adversely affect western North Carolina.

Having reviewed most of the articles about earthquake preparedness, it appears that the most important steps we should take include making sure your home is bolted to its foundation, securing water heaters to a wall, knowing where to turn off gas and electricity, securing cabinet doors, bolting tall, heavy furniture to the wall, and have a disaster kit that contains water, food and other necessities in the event that you are own your own for an extended period.

February 16, 2010

Take Action & Protect Your Family's Health in North Carolina

Poison.jpgIf you are like us, you're sick and tired, sometimes literally, of dangerous chemicals creeping into your home while filling the pesticide industry's deep pockets in the process.

The EPA allows the pesticide industry to keep secret thousands of harmful chemicals that they use in their products. They call them "inert." The Center for Environmental Health (CEH) has discovered what some of these chemicals are, and some cause cancer, genetic damage, reproductive harm, and other serious health problems.

Inert? Do these greedy executives need a dictionary?

Health & safety advocates have been pushing the pesticide industry to disclose these secret ingredients in their household products for over twenty years, but the pesticide industry keeps refusing. These are products like Front Line, Raid and Round-Up that you can buy at Lowes or Home Depot. But now, the new, improved EPA is listening. Your opportunity to speak out in support of EPA's plan to require pesticide companies to disclose all ingredients ends this week.

Demand your right to know what pesticide companies are exposing you to!

Follow this link and sign the petition today.

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February 15, 2010

Toyota Recalls May Trigger Car Insurance Refunds In NC

Toyota update.jpgAs I suggested in an earlier post about the Toyota recall, if you own one of the recalled models, you should not wait for the gas pedal to start sticking before having the problem fixed. Millions of Toyota owners are making dealership appointments to have the gas pedal problem fixed, and many owners are considering whether they are due a refund on their car insurance.

National Public Radio recently aired a piece about the potential effect of the massive recall on insurance companies. During the radio news program, NPR spoke to the manager of the NC Rate Bureau. The Rate Bureau is responsible for setting the rates that insurance companies can charge for car insurance. Ray Evans (the general manager of the North Carolina Rate Bureau) suggests that you contact his office if your insurance rates increased after being in an accident or receiving a ticket that you believe was caused by a sticking accelerator pedal.

Making such an appeal to the Rate Bureau could result in a substantial refund from your insurance company. If such an appeal is successful, then your insurance company would look to Toyota to cover the loss of revenue.

You may contact the North Carolina Rate Bureau at (919) 783-9790.

February 7, 2010

Sylva, NC Good Samaritans Killed By Negligent Truck Driver

truck crashes in snow.JPGA Sylva, North Carolina man and his son were killed by a negligent truck driver on Friday while trying to help a stranded motorist in Virginia.

Early Friday morning, around 12:30a.m., a passenger car spun out on a snow slick Interestate 81 near mile marker 58 in Wythe County, Virginia. The car came to rest in the left hand lane of the two northbound lanes. William Edward Smith Sr., 54, of Sylva, N.C., pulled his Dodge Caravan over onto the right hand shoulder and stopped so that his son could render aid to the stranded driver. As William Edward Smith, Jr., 25, of Mooresburg, Tenn. began making his way toward the stranded vehicle, a tractor-trailer driver lost control of his big rig and started jackknifing toward the minivan. The tractor trailer crashed into the minivan and then ran over the younger Mr. Smith. Both father and son were killed.

At the time of the crash, it was snowing quite hard and the road was white. The truck driver caused the collision because he violated several Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. These safety rules require truck drivers to exercise extreme caution when hazardous conditions, such as those caused by snow, ice, sleet, fog, mist, rain, dust, or smoke, adversely affect visibility or traction. If the roads become dangerous, the rules require the truck driver to stop driving. If the truck driver had followed the rules, then these two courageous men would still be alive.

Virginia State Police Trooper H.D. Mooney has not completed his investigation of this crash. Charges against the truck driver are pending.

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January 31, 2010

Toyota Recalls

Toyota logo.jpgThe world's largest automaker, Toyota, has announced the largest vehicle recall in history, recalling an estimated 2.3 million vehicles. The following Toyota vehicles have been recalled:

* 2005-2010 Avalon
* 2009-2010 RAV4
* 2007-2010 Camry
* 2008-2010 Sequoia
* 2009-2010 Corolla
* 2005-2010 Tacoma
* 2008-2010 Highlander
* 2007-2010 Tundra
* 2009-2010 Matrix
* 2009-2010 VENZA
* 2004-2009 Prius

The sudden acceleration sticking problem is responsible for at least 16 deaths and more than 200 injuries. Several wrongful death actions have been settled by Toyota and several more are still pending.

Toyota announced the recall only after ABC News told the Jananese automaker that it planned to air an expose on Toyota's sudden acceleration hazards. If you own one of the vehicles on the list, then you should watch for any problems with the accelerator feeling like it's not working as smoothly as is should. Toyota claims the problem is a "wear" issue, and that it does not happen overnight.

At the first sign of a sticking problem, Toyota says you should contact a local dealership and schedule the repair. But, if you are like me and do not believe that Toyota has your best interest at heart, then you should schedule the repair next week. Call Toyota's customer service hot line at 800-331-4331.

January 17, 2010

Johnson & Johnson Issues Giant Recall In North Carolina

Thumbnail image for Johnson & Johnson Bldg.jpgOn Friday, January 15, 2010, Johnson & Johnson, the multi-national conglomerate, issued a huge recall of several of its most popular over the counter medications, including Tylenol, Motrin and St. Joseph's Aspirin. The popular products have a strange moldy smell and have caused more than 75 people to become ill after taking the medicines. The symptoms range from nausea and vomiting to severe abdominal pain. Several people have sought medical attention after getting sick.

Johnson & Johnson apparently knew of the suspect drugs several months ago, but failed to promptly and thoroughly investigate the complaints. The moldy smell allegedly originates with a chemical used in treating the wooden pallets on which the products are shipped. Johnson & Johnson has not publicly disclosed the name of the chemical.

The Food and Drug Administration is also lobbing accusations that Johnson & Johnson should have notified them as soon as they suspected a problem. In a prior post about another drug making giant, Eli Lily, I explained how the FDA obtained billions as a result of the drug maker's violations of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. Similar allegations by the FDA are considered likely in this case as a result of Johnson & Johnson's reckless disregard for the public's safety.

In a separate announcement, the Justice Department is alleging that the pharmaceutical giant has paid millions and millions of dollars in kickbacks to Omnicare Inc. to boost drug sales to patients in nursing homes. Federal prosecutors contend that Omnicare purchases of Johnson & Johnson medicines tripled during this under-handed scheme to more than $280 million. Such conduct will likely cost Johnson & Johnson tens of millions, as it should. Conduct by corporations that intentionally harms the public should continue to be subject these corporate wrongdoers to massive fines, criminal prosecution, and punitive damages.