Fewer Accidents on the Horizon for Bicyclists in San Francisco

March 26, 2009 by Gregory J. Brod

Early this week during a hearing at San Francisco City Hall, the Board of Supervisors Land Use Committee heard an update from city agencies regarding SF Bicycle projects, which could start in July-- once a Supreme Court injunction that has banned bicycle improvement projects is lifted. In 2006, a Supreme Court judge had blocked the implementation of projects until City Hall put in place a study that analyzed how each of the projects would affect things like traffic flow and parking availability. The study was demanded by a small group of citizens who believe the city should not take space from MUNI and cars in favor of bicycles. Some of the proposed bicycle improvements, 56 in total, consist of adding more bike lanes, which would extend the 45miles of bike lanes to 79 miles, and bike parking, setting up a bike-sharing program, permitting two-wheelers on MUNI’s light rail, and retiming certain traffic signals to benefit cyclists.
Bicycle advocates of the San Francisco Bike Coalition (SFBC), look forward to seeing the projects move ahead quickly, and that all, not just some, of the 56 projects, part of their biggest and most important campaign, are approved and completed. Leah Shahum, the executive director of the SFBC, says: “It has been nearly three years since the city has striped a new bike lane, installed a new bike rack, put up new signage.” Because more and more people are turning to bikes as an alternative to cars, these improvements are needed more than ever. Here at the Brod Law Firm, we also look forward to seeing these new projects implemented, and we are glad to see the SFBC has made such enormous strides garnering support from the city. We support any project that would diminish the risks cyclists face and the numbers of bicycle accidents on San Francisco streets. Along with providing safer conditions for bicycles, we would like to think such improvements might also produce harmony in the streets between cars and bicyclists.

Dangerous Products - Manufacturers fight with all of their corporate power

March 19, 2009 by Gregory J. Brod

In October 2003, a Jeep was rear-ended by a tractor trailer in Virginia, causing the Jeep to roll over several times. A passenger in the Jeep suffered brain damage as a result of the crash, and a Virginia jury awarded her $10.2 million dollars. The trucking firm that was a defendant in the case argued that the woman’s brain injuries were due to a previous incident, not the crash involving the Jeep. Although the jury awarded $10.2 million dollars, the matter was appealed, and the Virginia Supreme Court upheld the jury verdict.

It is 2009, nearly six years after this tragic event, and the injured woman is only now receiving closure to her ordeal, at least as far as it relates to the judicial process. Corporate defendants often do not take any responsibility, whatsoever, for the injuries they cause. Despite a jury of her peers finding that she was entitled to an award of damages, the corporate defendants in the Virginia case fought for years, undoubtedly spending hundreds of thousands of dollars. The “tort-reform” lobby, which is primarily funded by the insurance industry, puts massive efforts and spares no expense into labeling many lawsuits as “frivolous”. However, the public rarely hears about cases involving a “frivolous defenses”. There are many instances in which a corporate defendant or insurance company vigorously defends a claim (which results in a lawsuit), even though there is no good faith basis to do so, or even if it makes no sense from a financial basis. In many cases, the corporate defendant or insurance company will spend far more in defending a claim than the total amount sought by an injured person. The reason is to “send a message” to injured people that should they pursue their rights, it will be costly, time consuming, difficult, and will be fought tooth and nail. It is therefore very important to ensure that when an injured person in selecting a lawyer to help them, that the lawyer be prepared to vigorously fight for their rights.

Get Ready to Sue, Californians!

March 6, 2009 by Gregory J. Brod

The other day I wrote about drugmakers putting profits before safety when they engage in off-label marketing and how drugmakers and their labeling strategies are coming under the scrutiny of the law. Interestingly, yesterday, the Supreme Court said state juries can award damages for harm done from unsafe drugs, even if their labels satisfied the FDA. This ruling is important because drugmakers can no longer protect themselves from lawsuits merely because their labels are in compliance with the FDA’s requirements. The underlying case, Wyeth Pharmaceuticals v. Levin, started in 2000 when Diana Levine went to a clinic to seek relief for a migraine and was injected with Wyeth’s drug Phenegran to help her with symptoms of nausea. Days later gangrene set in and her harm had to be amputated. She was awarded 6.7million in damages.

The fallout from this case? It is unknown how this decision will affect pharmaceutical companies, but it is likely that they will start strengthening and lengthening the language on labels. It was only until recently, under the Bush administration, that federal agencies were given the final word on drug product safety, and the FDA would claim that state law interfered with their business. This court ruling has turned the FDA’s fears upside down, along with our former administration’s effort to protect drugmakers from lawsuits. And now that these types personal injury claims are no longer pre-empted, more plaintiffs will feel less pressure to settle and be given the opportunity to be heard by a jury and receive compensation. Here at the Brod Law Firm we are prepared to take on product liability suits against drugmakers, now more than ever, due to the outcome of this case.

Californians Beware! How Safe are Prescription Drugs in California or Anywhere in the Nation?

March 3, 2009 by Gregory J. Brod

Yesterday, Bloomberg.com reported that the drug maker AstraZeneca pushed salespeople to tell U.S. doctors its antipsychotic drug Seroquel didn’t cause diabetes more than two years after warning physicians in Japan of possible links to the disease. This report brings into the foreground the dangerous practice by drug makers of making false and misleading statements to sell drugs. This phenomenon was recently noted in article in LawyersandSettlements.com, where the makers of Seroquel were cited for downplaying the side effects associated with the drug and for the practice of prescribing the medication for conditions it was not designed to treat, also known as off-label marketing. The article states that “Seroquel is an anti-psychotic drug that was approved by the FDA for the treatment of Schizophrenia and manic episodes associated with Bipolar I disorder …and is being prescribed for everything from anxiety, to children with attention deficit disorder. “ Sadly, as noted in the article, “it is this off-label marketing that creates a boost in sales for drug makers.” The article also adds, because “drug companies are prohibited from directly advertising a product for use beyond that which it has been approved by the FDA”…they take advantage of a loophole that exists in the system, the” loophole that gives doctors and qualified health care professionals the capacity to make subjective decisions based on perceived or assumed benefit.” Consequently, drug makers focus their marketing on the medical community. Medication that is prescribed off-label to healthy people represents the largest market for drug makers.
Cases such as these, where drug companies put profits before people, are becoming more and more common. FDAnews.com reported in September of last year that Cephalon agreed to pay $444 million in damages and penalties to settle allegations of improper off-label drug marketing. A public interest group called The New Jersey Public Interest Research Group has been researching these practices and put out a report titled “Turning Medicine into Snake Oil” in 2006. The report highlights the issue of off-label marketing and the FDA’s inability to police drug marketers. They state: “When drug marketers promote off-label by broadening the drug’s indication—meaning they urge doctors to ignore the safety-based limitations the FDA imposed on a drug’s use- they are promoting the drug for uses it is effective for, but which the FDA decided are not justified, given the drug’s risks. Patients given these prescriptions are by definition exposed to unnecessary, excessive risks.” In turn, patients who are exposed to excessive risks can or will be injured, even killed. Patients place trust in their doctors, and are violated when unnecessarily prescribed drugs with dangerous side effects. Here at the Brod Law Firm we are prepared to help anyone who has been injured or has lost a loved one due to a dangerous prescription drug.