Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Abused children may get more time to sue

Bill would increase statute of limitations to six years from two

May 30, 2006 | BETH MILLER | The News Journal
Victims of child sexual abuse by an adult would have more time to sue for damages under a bill expected to reach the General Assembly today.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Greg Lavelle, R-Sharpley, and Sen. Karen Peterson, D-Stanton, would extend the time from two years to six years after the abuse occurs or to six years after the abuse is discovered to be the cause of a victim's emotional or physical damage.

The bill also would give new life to claims of abuse that have been barred by Delaware's civil statute of limitations, granting a two-year window in which such claims could be filed.

"That would be awesome," said Valerie Marek, executive director of Survivors of Abuse in Recovery, which supports the recovery of many abuse victims. "A lot of kids are threatened into keeping their mouths closed. By the time they are strong enough to confront it, it's years later and major damage has been done."

California passed a similar law, some states revised their statute of limitations, and other states are debating the issue, which gained prominence after the scandal of child sexual abuse by priests emerged nationally in 2002.

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Kenneth Whitwell urged Delaware lawmakers to change the state's statute of limitations last fall, when he filed suit claiming he was sexually abused by a priest who taught at Archmere Academy in the mid-1980s. Some of the abuse occurred during ski trips to Vermont, Whitwell said.

Delaware's statute of limitations would have barred Whitwell's suit, so it was filed in federal court to leverage the Vermont statute of limitations, which is six years past the time of the abuse or six years after the damage caused by the abuse is recognized.

"A civil window is the single most effective step we have toward preventing future abuse," Whitwell said Friday. "It exposes the predators now and it exposes people who enable the abuse, who protect those people, who shield molesters, who destroy documents. We know there are people out there who don't want this to get out into the open."

The legislation is meant to address abuse by individuals and the institutions that employ them. It does not target the Catholic Church or any other group, said Lavelle, who is Catholic.

"It's much broader than that," he said. "This impacts anyone whose charge it is to be responsible and watch over children; Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, the YMCA, day cares, private schools."

Split support

Tony Flynn, lawyer for the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington, which includes parishes throughout Delaware and the Eastern Shore of Maryland, said the diocese generally supports changing the civil statute.

"We think whatever clock runs against a victim of sexual abuse should not begin to run until they are an adult," Flynn said. "If you create a period of time long enough, you can deal with the valid concern that victims of sexual abuse as minors have difficulty coming to grips with the abuse and its effects."

But, he said, the diocese sees problems in the "discovery approach," in which the time limit does not begin until the victim remembers the abuse or realizes that emotional or physical difficulties were the result of the abuse. And it would "vigorously oppose" any effort to revive claims already barred by the statute of limitations.

"There are a number of ways to deal with this, so I'm not drawing a line in the sand for this particular solution," Lavelle said. "I view this as the beginning of a public discussion."

Extending the two-year civil limit has broad support, Lavelle said. Addressing old claims with a retroactive bill is likely to face tougher debate.

Retroactive problems

Delaware lawmakers removed the statute of limitations for criminal prosecution of child sexual abuse a few years ago, including a window of opportunity during which older cases could be revived and prosecuted. But shortly after that bill was signed into law, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on a similar case, striking down the retroactive window as unconstitutional.

"But the average age of an abused child is 9 years old," Peterson said. "What child is going to hire an attorney and file suit before he or she is 11? And with a lot of older cases people from my generation didn't talk about it. If you did, you got spanked and sent to your room. It was a whole different mentality in those days. You didn't cause problems in the family."

Reviving old cases raises many problems, Flynn said.

"Somebody abused 50 years ago could file suit," he said. "The evidence is lost, the witnesses are lost, dead or unavailable, documents are difficult to find in my view that is a denial of due process. Once a claim is barred by operation of a statute, a defendant has the right to rely on that and clear the books of the claim. Insurance programs and risk management are all predicated on what the statutes of limitation are. If you buy insurance and the rules change, you're stuck."

Ed Burke, a member of St. John's-Holy Angels parish near Newark who was abused by a priest as a boy in Iowa, said the law would give children justice and additional protection. He works with the northern Delaware chapter of Voice of the Faithful, formed to support survivors of priest abuse.

"My hope is that the state legislators will take the high ground and force the spiritual leaders to offer some form of justice to the abused, who in many cases have suffered from years of neglect," he said.

Flynn doubts legislators have enough time to devote to such a significant issue before their June 30 deadline.

"There are only 16 legislative days left in June," he said. "I doubt they can have the kind of discussion and analysis that's required for a bill of such sweeping scope. It's something that deserves more reflective consideration."

And, Flynn said, the bill still doesn't address another arena of abuse.

"If the aim of the bill is to prevent abuse, which is a major priority of the church, we're leaving untouched in this legislation a place where abuse occurs the public school system," he said. "It is immune from these suits."

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Jersey City Lawyer Wins $16.4 million Jury Award for Asbestos Victims in Brooklyn

Jersey City, NJ - May 5, 2006 A Brooklyn jury awarded three retired Long Island Railroad (LIRR) workers a total of 16.4 million dollars for lung disease caused by their exposure to asbestos while working for the railroad. Following an eight day jury trial before the Honorable Lawrence Knipel, Albito Velez-Zapata of Massepequa Park, New York was awarded 8 million dollars, Lincoln Aguirre of Deer Park, New York was awarded 6 million dollars and James Harrington of Brookville, New York was awarded 2.4 million dollars. The consolidated claims were filed under the Federal Employee's Liability Act (FELA), a special law designed to protect interstate railroad workers.

The workers, represented by Alan T. Friedman of Jersey City's Bagolie Friedman Injury Lawyers and Paul Garner, affiliated with Jersey City's Horn Shechtman, were exposed to deadly asbestos fibers while grinding gaskets on a high revolution wire wheel and while working around contaminated rail cars and locomotives. The jury found that the railroad knew about the dangers of asbestos dust beginning in the 1930s and failed warn their workers of the dangers and failed to protect them from the deadly fibers.

LIRR argued that the dust masks were available to the workers, despite the fact that their own Asbestos Awareness Program advised that dust masks were not adequate protection for workers exposed to asbestos. This Asbestos Awareness Program was not implemented until the 1990's, long after other industries had reacted to their asbestos problems. Additionally, the Long Island Railroad was fined by the State of New York in the 1990's for failing to implement a Right to Know program to advise their workers of workplace hazards. A Federal law requiring this type of program had been passed in the 1980's.

"The LIRR treated these workers as if they were expendable or disposable, just like the machines that it was their job to repair. The railroad considered them human overhead. This jury told the LIRR in a loud, clear voice that this is no way to treat your employees"
said attorney Alan Friedman.

Alan T. Friedman has been certified as a Civil Trial Attorney by the New Jersey Supreme Court and is a founding partner of Bagolie Friedman Injury Lawyers, with offices in Jersey City and Clifton, New Jersey, Hollywood, Florida and an international affiliation in Brisbane, Australia. He can be reached toll free at 1-866-333-3529, via e-mail at alan@bagoliefriedman.com, or on his website at www.bagoliefriedman.com.

My New Blog

I must be a glutton for punishment but, alas, I have a new blog. It is the Jersey City Personal Injury Lawyer Blog and it can be found at http://jerseycity.injuryboard.com. The most recent posting is on Truck and Tractor Trailer accidents. Check it out.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Formaldehyde fears in FEMA trailers

By Sean Gardiner
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Posted May 18 2006

Using air-monitoring badges supplied by a Boca Raton company, a national environmental organization found high levels of formaldehyde in trailers supplied by FEMA for those stranded after hurricanes in Mississippi and Louisiana.

The Sierra Club announced Wednesday that only two of the 31 FEMA trailers tested in those states were below the formaldehyde air safety limit recommended by the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the American Lung Association, said Chris Smith of the Sierra Club.

Smith said he expects further formaldehyde tests will be conducted on FEMA-issued trailers in Mississippi and New Orleans but wasn't sure if any testing will be done in Florida.

Currently there are more than 1,500 FEMA trailers and mobile homes housing Florida hurricane refugees, according to FEMA statistics.

In a news release issued on Wednesday about the testing, the Sierra Club stated that formaldehyde -- a colorless, strong smelling gas that is a carcinogen -- usually comes from pressed particleboard or glue.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Humira or Remicade May Triple Risk of Cancer

Humira or Remicade May Triple Risk of Cancer

CHICAGO, Illinois (AP) — Rheumatoid arthritis patients taking Humira or Remicade face triple the risk of developing several kinds of cancer and double the risk of getting serious infections, a study led by the Mayo Clinic found.The analysis builds on previous reports about the risks associated with Abbott Laboratories’ Humira and Centocor’s Remicade. But the earlier research focused mostly on one kind of cancer — lymphoma — and infections such as tuberculosis and pneumonia.

The new study found an apparent link to other cancers, too, including skin, gastrointestinal, breast and lung tumors. It also quantifies the risks and says high doses appear to be the riskiest.

While the drugs’ packaging information mentions some of the risks, the manufacturers said the new study does not prove that the medication is at fault, and they said the research was flawed.

To read full story, click here.

Contact Bagolie Friedman Injury Lawyers for a confidential and free consultation.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Birth-control patch linked to blood clots, strokes

Dozens of womanm have sued Ortho Evra manufacturer Ortho-McNeil Pharmaceutical Inc. and its parent company, Johnson & Johnson, arguing that the country's only birth-control patch causes debilitating blood clots, strokes and even death. The patch is still on the market.

In U.S. District Court in Newark, N.J., where 37 cases have been filed, the stories are similar: An otherwise healthy Georgia woman develops a pulmonary embolism; a Maine woman suffers from a blood clot in her right lung; a 12-year-old girl in Indiana is diagnosed with deep-vein thrombosis.

Julie Keenan, spokeswoman for Ortho-McNeil, declined to comment on the allegations because of the ongoing litigation.

For many of the women, the long-term effects have been devastating. Some will be on blood thinners for the rest of their lives.

The lawsuits contend that Ortho-McNeil rushed the patch onto the market without adequate testing. The company may have been nervous that it would lose money when its patent for the birth-control pill Ortho Tri-Cyclen ran out, the suits say, and pushed to get the patch on pharmacy shelves to offset any red ink.

Lawyers handling the cases, which have been filed in federal courts across the country as well as in Superior Court in Hudson and Middlesex counties, say they are more clear-cut than other recent pharmaceutical litigation, such as the Vioxx lawsuits.

"You're dealing with primarily women ages 18 to 35 who don't have a lot of pre-existing conditions to begin with," said, a Hackensack lawyer who is working with a South Carolina law firm on a dozen cases. "The reason why people are getting the blood clots is a lot cleaner."

At a hearing last week in U.S. District Court in Ohio, where the federal cases have been consolidated, a Johnson & Johnson lawyer announced the company hopes to settle the lawsuits. Already, 11 women who filed suit in Hudson County have received settlements, although the amounts are sealed.

Generally lawsuit settlements are viewed as positive outcomes for plaintiffs, but they can be a mixed blessing in drug cases.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Respironics PLV Continuum Ventilator: Class 1 recall due to air flow valve breakage and failure to ventilate

Respironics and FDA notified healthcare professionals about the Class 1
recall of this device, a mechanical ventilator used to control or assist
breathing. The ventilator is intended for home, institutional and
portable settings and may be used for invasive as well as noninvasive
ventilation. A design flaw can cause lead wires in the air flow valve to
break during use. When this happens the ventilator stops providing
mechanical ventilation. Customers should safely transition patients in
their care from the PLV Continuum Ventilator onto other comparable
patient support devices. If customers do not have a suitable ventilator
to use for their patients, they should contact Respironics at
760-918-7328 to make suitable substitute arrangements.

If you or a loved one has been injured by this device, contact Bagolie Friedman
Lawyers now for a confidential and free consultation.

Read the complete MedWatch 2006 Safety summary including a link to the
recall notice, by clicking here.