Alabama Litigation Review

Alabama Litigation Review

Insights & Commentary on Developments in Alabama Litigation

Blackwell Law Firm — We Help Injured People And Families In Alabama

Posted in Personal Injury

Our firm — Blackwell Law Firm — helps personal injury victims in Alabama. Our cases involve people across Alabama who have suffered a serious injury or disability. We understand serious injuries and the impact those injuries have on individuals and entire families. Our philosophy is simple — the best case results are obtained by hard work and preparation. Unlike many advertising lawyers, we do NOT believe the quick settlement, high volume approach benefits the seriously injured and their families. You will NEVER see us on a billboard. You will find us in court, in deposition, and busy researching legal issues. All serious injuries are personal and deserve a focused and individual approach. Our firm focuses on working each individual case in an effort to obtain the maximum compensation possible. We specialize in injury cases including:

  • Severe Personal Injuries
  • Automobile Crashes And Injuries
  • Wrongful Death Cases In Alabama
  • Workers’ Compensation Injuries And Disabilities
  • Defective Product Injuries And Claims
  • Bad Drug and Medical Device Injuries And Deaths
  • Consumer Fraud Damages

I founded the Blackwell Law Firm in 2016 after two decades of practice with plaintiff injury and trial firms in Birmingham and Huntsville. Our firm is built around the philosophy of preparation. Our team also includes an additional trial attorney with years of experience in jury trials involving serious automobile crashes and insurance claims.

Outside of court, we believe in discussing, researching and teaching on areas of the law within our specialty. This also makes us unique when compared to many firms.

I began this blog years before founding the Blackwell Law Firm. I still post occasionally to it. However, I now post regularly (usually each week) to my firm’s blog at Alabama Injury Lawyer Blog. Most of my commentary can be found on my newer blog. We welcome readers to our blog and website. All of the blog posts are mine, written by me. We do not believe in canned marketing content. Claims and lawsuits are personal. Consumers deserve a personal approach. We hope you find useful legal information and commentary. If you have questions or need a consultation, give us a call. We are happy to discuss your legal issues.

Need A Lawyer? Don’t Believe Everything You Read On A Website! (Updated Developments)

Posted in Personal Injury

Ambulance Clip - Personal Injury Attorney

Last month, I published a post about a local DUI law firm that suddenly started advertising for personal injury and wrongful death cases. Suddenly, billboards for that firm appeared along major Huntsville area roads. I’ve written many times that I would never hire a billboard lawyer for a serious case. I’ve seen many skilled courtroom lawyers and legal scholars during the two decades I’ve practiced personal injury work. None of them advertise on billboards.

Attorney ads are everywhere. It’s simple – You pay a marketer. You pose for a photograph. You claim expertise. You can even purchase some fake awards to bolster your credentials. Most lawyers I know receive a daily junk mail offer to sell them a plaque. The opportunities to buy vanity awards are endless.

In my last post, I asked “What about websites?” I believe websites should provide good educational material for legal consumers. That’s why I wrote the legal articles on my website. I’m sure my articles contain a grammatical error somewhere. That aside, my intention is to provide skilled information for people who need help. I write about areas of the law I’ve studied and practiced for years. I don’t write about other areas of the law where I lack expertise. Nor do I try to market for clients in those other specialties. I don’t think it’s right to do so. People with legal issues deserve better.

I feel strongly about the issue. Because of that, I took issue with a local DUI firm advertising for personal injury and car accident cases while putting a “Disclaimer” on its website. Yes, a fine print disclaimer at the bottom of its website pages for personal injury, car accident and wrongful death cases.

What is their disclaimer? The billboard law firm is going to sign you as a client but “may” retain another firm (a real injury trial firm) to handle the case. What does that mean? Lawyers who actually prepare personal injury cases for trial don’t advertise with disclaimers saying they refer most cases to an outside lawyer. If you are hurt, who do you want to hire as a personal injury attorney?

In addition to the fine print “Disclaimer,” the billboard firm also had an interesting “Wrongful Death” page. On that page, the firm actually listed the types of “compensation to offset costs” it would work to obtain. It then listed items like suffering, loss of consortium, and medical bills. The Problem – These are compensatory damages and NOT recoverable in an Alabama wrongful death case. That’s a big problem. You can see a screenshot of their (now changed) web page on my prior post.

Alabama law allows for the recovery of ONLY punitive damages in wrongful death cases. That’s a key part of our law. And, it impacts everything in a wrongful death case. I’ve prepared wrongful death cases for over two decades and can tell you – the entire legal strategy of an Alabama wrongful death case must consider that only punitive damages are recoverable. That’s something any lawyer who regularly handles these cases would know.

The damages issue is essential in preparing and recovering for a wrongful death claim. Beyond that, it’s also essential in keeping the money recovered. What do I mean? Consider medical liens by health insurers for example. In a normal personal injury case, they are a significant issue. Here’s a common personal injury scenario – You have a car accident. You are hurt. You see doctors for medical care. If you have health coverage like Blue Cross or Medicare, they pay your bills. But, they also have certain rights to subrogation or reimbursement if you recover money in your personal injury case. In wrongful death cases, the law does not allow a recovery for compensatory damages like medical bills. No recovery means no reimbursement. That’s a big deal to clients. For more information, you can read a prior article I wrote titled — Wrongful Death And Medical Reimbursement In Alabama. Many lawyers don’t understand the impact. Clearly, a lawyer who does not know what damages are recoverable will not understand the issue. As a consumer, the lawyer’s ignorance can cost you tremendously.

The damages issue is key to these cases. I could talk at length about it. I have discussed many of these issues in past blog posts. At this point, you may be asking why I’m updating my prior post on this topic? After writing my prior post, the advertising DUI firm removed the references to compensatory damage items from its website wrongful death page. That’s a positive development. Consumers need correct information.

Yet, the “Disclaimer” remains. Many Huntsville area attorneys know the truth – this DUI firm has a deal with a specific area law firm to refer those cases for a fee. The consumer does not get the firm he or she hired. The consumer gets a different lawyer that he or she did not research or choose. That type of advertising is still a problem for many attorneys who want to deliver transparent and reliable professional services. As a profession, we should be open and transparent about our services.

Need A Lawyer? Don’t Believe Everything You Read On A Website!

Posted in Personal Injury, Punitive Damages


Billboards. Television. Radio. Lawyer ads are everywhere. It’s easy to smile and claim expertise. It’s much more difficult to perform the study and hard work necessary to win a complicated case. I’ve written previously that I would never hire a billboard lawyer for a serious case.

What about websites? I believe websites should contain good information for consumers. That’s why I wrote the articles on my firm website. Unfortunately, we have too many lawyers purchasing websites without writing or reviewing them for accuracy. Those sites contain canned content and marketing hype. That creates bad problems for the people who really need help.

For example, a local Huntsville DUI firm suddenly decided it wanted to advertise for personal injury and elder law cases. That firm created new billboards and a new website for their new specialties. However, a look at their website raises serious concerns. Their website has a Personal Injury page. Click on it. It looks nice. But, read to the bottom. That’s where you see the Disclaimer. What? The firm actually has a Disclaimer that tells consumers it intends to refer cases to outside lawyers. The truth — this advertising firm wants your personal injury case just to sign you up for a fee. Maybe the firm will try to negotiate a quick (and perhaps low) settlement. But, another lawyer at a different firm elsewhere will really prepare your case. What’s not on the website? The website does not disclose the “secret” known by many in the Huntsville legal community. The advertising firm has an actual arrangement with a specific other law firm to send personal injury cases to it. The whole process lacks authenticity and transparency. In my opinion, no lawyer should advertise for cases he or she really does not intend to handle to completion. And, no law firm should shadow advertise for another firm.

My problems with that billboard firm’s website don’t stop with what I believe to be a misleading “Disclaimer.” The advertising firm’s website also says it handles Wrongful Death cases. The firm website actually makes that representation. Nothing is more traumatic than losing a loved one. More than any other time — grieving families need to trust the professionals around them. Doctors. Funeral Directors. Financial Planners. Lawyers. Families need to trust these professionals. It’s a very difficult time. So, the new advertising firm claims it handles “wrongful death” cases. I clicked on its website to see. What I found, was troubling. Here is a screenshot of the advertising law firm’s wrongful death page from May 2017:

Screenshot 2017-05-05 13.40.48

If the screenshot is difficult to read, I’ve turned it into a text quote below:

Trust in Our Huntsville Wrongful Death Attorneys

We understand that no amount of money can bring your loved one back, but we make it our mission to try and make sure no other family has to experience the same tragedy. Our firm also works to try to relieve the financial strain of your situation and give you one less thing about which to worry. We believe someone who tragically loses a loved one should not have to shoulder the burden of a financial costs stemming from their loss.

Our firm can work to help you obtain compensation to offset costs such as:

The loss of wages

Suffering

Loss of consortium

Medical bills

Costs of funeral

Our firm offers no-cost consultations. This allows us to explain your rights and options after you lose a loved one in a wrongful death accident. We aim to provide you with the top-notch service you need as you seek justice for your loved one.

Here’s the problem — None of the listed compensatory losses is recoverable in an Alabama wrongful death case. Loss of wages. Loss of consortium. Medical bills. These are considered compensatory damages. And, they are NOT recoverable under Alabama’s current wrongful death laws. So, why is a law firm advertising it will obtain compensation for these items?

In Alabama wrongful death cases, ONLY punitive damages are recoverable. The only damages recoverable for a wrongful death case in Alabama are punitive damages to punish the wrongdoer. The distinction in recoverable damages is critical for your case. If a wrongful death case goes to trial, the deceased’s medical bills and wage losses are not considered in that evidence. They are not recoverable for that claim.

A lawyer who truly handles wrongful death cases should know this law. Alabama is unique in allowing only punitive damages for wrongful death cases. If a lawyer really wants to help a grieving family, he or she will study this law and build their claim based upon it. Otherwise, the lawyer is absolutely failing his or her clients.

I’ve written previous articles about the unique nature of damages recoverable for wrongful death in Alabama. You can read some of these articles on this blog and our law firm website. This legal issue impacts every part of the claim and trial. A lawyer who does NOT understand this area of the law will not prepare your case for the greatest recovery. And, if a settlement is made, such a lawyer may not protect your recovery properly from liens and creditors. Over the years, I have seen many situations where a lawyer cost his or her client money by failing to understand the significant legal issues. These are tremendous issues which affect your claim from day one.

Splashy graphics and lots of promises do not make a good lawyer. No lawyer should suddenly start advertising as an expert in a new area of the law. With law firm websites, the lyrics from the rock song by the Guess Who (or the newer version sung by Lenny Kravitz) ring true — “Colored lights can hypnotize.” Don’t fall for fancy website designs. Don’t fall for promises of money recoveries. Don’t fall for the purchased awards that crowd many law firm websites. If you or your family needs a lawyer, do your homework. Study. Ask questions. Look for real expertise. What you really need is a specialist. To find one, you have to move beyond advertising hype.

Federal Court Invokana Injury Claims Continue To Advance

Posted in Defective Products

Last fall, we asked the question on our other blogWill Invokana Injury Cases Be Centralized? At that time, a growing number of injured patients had filed lawsuits in Federal Courts. Our firm has been investigating potential Invokana injury claims for some time. For background information on the drug Invokana and its associated injuries, you can read more on the Hot Topics section of our law firm website.

Since our posting, a number of events have occurred. First, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) consolidated all Federal Court cases before Judge Brian Martinotti in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey. In January, Judge Martinotti entered an initial case management Order appointing a Federal Magistrate Judge to preside over discovery matters. In that Order, the Judge also indicated a special master or mediator would be appointed early in the case to explore potential settlements. At the end of January, Judge Martinotti entered another Order appointing attorneys to leadership roles on behalf of injured plaintiffs.

In addition to addressing important issues such as discovery procedures, potential settlement negotiations and attorney leadership roles, the Judge has also announced a “Science Day” for July 19, 2017. At that time, the parties will make presentations (in a non-adversarial setting) to educate the court concerning the link between Invokana and reports of injuries such as diabetic ketoacidosis, kidney failure and heart attacks.

The Blackwell Law Firm website and blogs contain several articles about Invokana and the other drugs in its class. These drugs have been associated with serious personal injuries and even deaths. We expect the number of claims involving Invokana injury to increase. You can read our reports and posts here:

If you are an Alabama consumer who suffered injury after taking Invokana or one of its related drugs, we would be happy to answer your questions. Consultations are always free and confidential.

Injury Cases Involving Atrium C-Qur Hernia Mesh Continue To Progress

Posted in Defective Products

IMG-31516

At the Blackwell Law Firm website we have a section called Hot Topics. That section provides news and research related to current legal issues. Many of these issues involve injury from bad drugs or dangerous medical devices. Among those topics — two hernia mesh products. These are Ethicon’s Physiomesh and Atrium’s C-Qur mesh. We are currently investigating injuries by Alabama patients which may be associated with these two products.

Injury cases involving Atrium C-Qur hernia mesh continue to progress in Federal Court. In December 2016, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) consolidated the Atrium C-Qur cases filed in Federal Courts across the United States. District Court Judge Landya McCafferty in the District of New Hampshire will now handle case discovery and other pretrial matters. Currently, only a couple dozen injured patients have filed cases. But, many more filings are expected now that the litigation has been consolidated.

Judge McCafferty has issued pretrial orders since being assigned these claims. These include a Case Management Order appointing lawyers to coordinate and manage discovery on behalf of the various injured plaintiffs. These also include an Order involving the preservation of materials from Atrium C-Qur surgeries which could be used as evidence.

As we discussed in the Hot Topics section of our firm website, Atrium’s C-Qur mesh is different than other mesh products. While the product is a polypropylene mesh, it also has an outer coating of gel made from Omega 3 fatty acids (like fish oil). The gel coating was intended to reduce scar tissue formation. Yet, patients suffering problems following the implant allege this coating actually causes severe complications. These complications include inflammatory responses, infections, adhesions and severe pain. Because the Atrium C-Qur mesh received approval through the FDA’s controversial 510(k) process, we believe it may lack sufficient research and study.

For more information, read our Hot Topics section. Also, we are available for consultation concerning your potential injuries.

Does The Drug Abilify Cause Compulsive Behaviors?

Posted in Defective Products

It’s difficult to believe. Like many people, I had serious doubts. Very serious doubts. Can a drug really cause compulsive behaviors like uncontrollable gambling? Many Abilify victims suffered the doubts of family and friends. Yet, new medical research now supports a link between the drug and these dangerous compulsive behaviors.

WHAT IS ABILIFY?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) first approved the drug Abilify (aripiprazole) in 2002 as a treatment for schizophrenia. The Otsuka Pharmaceutical Company developed the drug and partnered with Bristol-Myers Squibb to market it.

Only a small number of patients are diagnosed with schizophrenia. So, these drug companies sought FDA approval to market the drug for additional uses. Abilify is frequently marketed, by itself or in combination with other drugs, as a treatment for major depression and other conditions.

Older generation antipsychotics targeted dopamine receptors in the brain. These older drugs had a greater risk of neurologic side effects. More recent antipsychotics like Abilify work on both dopamine and serotonin. Many of these newer drugs block both dopamine and serotonin to control patient symptoms. Abilify works by either enhancing or inhibiting dopamine and serotonin levels to achieve a balance. The drug is often viewed as a stabilizer and used in conjunction with other medications.

ABILIFY AND BLOCKBUSTER PROFITS

Abilify is one of the world’s most prescribed drugs. It has produced billions of dollars in sales for its manufacturers. The drug has topped $6 Billion in annual sales. In 2015, alone, doctors in the United States issued 1.5 million prescriptions of the drug to treat conditions such as schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorder and autism-related irritability. Abilify remains a top-selling drug.

ABILIFY RESEARCH AND COMPULSIVE BEHAVIORS

On May 3, 2016, the FDA released a new safety communication about Abilify. What new safety warnings did the FDA issue? This new safety communication warned doctors and patients that Abilify (including Abilify Maintena, Aristada and generic versions) may cause uncontrollable urges, including urges to gamble and binge eat.

The issue of uncontrollable urges is very different than the harm caused by many other dangerous medications. At the Blackwell Law Firm, we have represented patients in many different defective drug claims. We recognize the issues related to Abilify are different and have resulted in much confusion. So, what is the current research related to Abilify and uncontrollable urges?

A 2010 case study published in Australia and New Zealand followed a woman with schizophrenia who took Abilify. After taking the drug, this patient gained extensive weight through compulsive eating and lost thousands of dollars through compulsive gambling. The patient had no prior history of this problem behavior and related to her doctors that she could not control herself while on the medication. The patient’s uncontrollable urges stopped when she quit taking the medication. Later research followed numerous patients.

A 2011 study involved schizophrenia patients given Abilify. Shortly after taking the medication, these patients began suffering uncontrollable gambling problems.

A separate 2011 British study was conducted by the National Problem Gambling Clinic. This study also indicated a relationship between Abilify and excessive gambling.

A 2013 French study examined several patients already in a clinic because of impulsive gambling behaviors. Eight of these patients were given Abilify. Seven of the eight patients given Abilify lost control of their gambling habits.

A 2014 paper also detailed research into Abilify and compulsive gambling. A scientist at the Institute for Safe Medication Practices, Thomas J. Moore, studied over 1,500 cases involving Abilify and its adverse effects. After conducting his extensive research, he found the association between Abilify and compulsive behaviors was “significant, the magnitude of the effects was large.”

A new 2017 article just released by the Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology also indicates a link between Abilify and compulsive gambling. After studying numerous patients, the authors of this study concluded users of the drug demonstrated an increased risk of pathologic gambling.

Does Abilify cause other problems? We are closely studying Abilify and its link to uncontrollable, compulsive behaviors. However, additional studies also indicate the drug may be linked to childhood diabetes. A November 2011 study published in the journal Pediatrics indicated that antipsychotic medications like Abilify may substantially increase a child’s risk of diabetes. A separate October 2013 study indicated Abilify may increase the risk of diabetes in children by a factor of seven.

At the Blackwell Law Firm, we have represented numerous Alabama patients injured by dangerous drugs and defective medical devices. We are currently helping consumers in a number of active claims. If you have questions, please call or read our articles. Consultations are always free and confidential.

Are Hernia Mesh Products Causing Personal Injury?

Posted in Defective Products

Hernia Repair Surgeries Are Common

Hernia repair surgeries are among the most common surgeries in the United States. More than a million of these surgeries are performed each year in this country. Hernia repair surgeries can be performed with or without the implantation of mesh. As with mesh used in some other repair surgeries, the question becomes – do the benefits of using hernia mesh for the patient outweigh the risks?

For the last several years, our firm has represented numerous Alabama women injured by transvaginal mesh implants. While that use of implanted mesh involves different issues, the same question arises – is the potential benefit really worth the risks? After years of representing numerous women hurt by implanted transvaginal mesh as well as studying those products and their history, I believe the risks of injury are far too great. Yet, these transvaginal mesh products were approved through the faulty FDA 510(k) process which puts dangerous products on the market without adequate clinical testing. This faulty process has allowed many dangerous and defective medical devices to harm patients across the United States. I could speak at length about our prior work with transvaginal mesh but let me return to the separate topic of hernia mesh.

Why do surgeons use hernia mesh? Surgeons use hernia mesh because hernias have a significant rate of recurrence. Implanted mesh reduces the rate of recurrence and the need for further hernia repairs. So, that’s the potential benefit. Does it outweigh the risks? Mesh complications can be very serious for the patient. Complications from hernia mesh can cause tremendous pain and even disability. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the most commonly reported complications for hernia repair surgeries, include:

  • Pain
  • Scar-like tissue that adheres
  • Infections
  • Intestinal blockages
  • Perforations
  • Bleeding

Those are pretty bad complications. They can cause chronic problems in the patient.

Hernia Repair Mesh Products Are Now Being Investigated

Through the years, several hernia mesh products have been used surgically in patients. Now, questions are being raised about two of these products and the potential personal injury they may cause. Both of these mesh products (like so many other dangerous products) received market approval through the faulty FDA 510(k) process.

Atrium C-Qur Hernia Mesh

Atrium first introduced its C-Qur mesh in 2005. Since then, Atrium has introduced several different C-Qur mesh products. All of the C-Qur products are a polypropylene mesh. They contain an outer coating of gel made from Omega 3 fatty acids (otherwise known as Fish Oil).

Patients across the United States have reported problems after hernia repair surgeries using C-Qur mesh implants. Patients and their physicians have raised issues and complaints including:

  • Significant rates of infection
  • Chronic pain, including abdominal pain
  • Perforation of organs
  • Adhesions
  • Inflammatory and allergic reactions

With the increase in adverse reaction reports, some legal commenters are closely watching developments. From experience with separate products marketed through the FDA’s 510(k) process without adequate pre-market clinical testing, I believe it sometimes takes years for problems to come to light. This faulty process allows medical device makers to test their products on innocent and unsusptecting people. That’s terrible. Patients deserve better.

Ethicon Physiomesh

Ethicon is a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson. The company introduced Physiomesh in 2010. Physiomesh is also a polypropylene mesh product.

In May of 2016, Ethicon announced a global withdrawal of Physiomesh. That is, Ethicon decided to remove the product from markets across the world. Ethicon refuses to use the term “recall” for its action. Regardless, the question becomes – Why did Ethicon suddenly pull its product from markets across the globe? Ethicon pulled its Physiomesh product after an analysis of data from two large European databases indicated an association with much higher rates of recurrence from Physiomesh than other mesh products.

Ethicon has announced it will not sell Physiomesh in the future. With data potentially surfacing about significant problems, that’s probably a wise decision. Yet, that decision does not help the large number of patients already implanted with the product. How does Ethicon intend to help these patients if they are suffering problems or complications?

Investigating Potential Defects and Patient Injuries

Blackwell Law Firm is investigating both of these hernia mesh products. We believe problems with these products are just beginning to surface. We will continue to research both products, including the materials and design of them. You can read more about the products we are investigating on the Hot Topics section of our firm website. We are also available to answer any questions.

 

Settlement Paperwork: Don’t Expose An Injured Client To More Harm

Posted in Personal Injury

Settlement Terms Are Important

A recent LinkedIn conversation about settlement terms raised an important issue. The topic — A defendant adds additional (and unacceptable) terms to a release document.

Lawsuit Release

The issue is far too common. Here’s the scenario. The lawyers agree to settle an injury claim. Maybe the lawyers reached a settlement informally and confirmed it with letters or emails. Maybe the lawyers reached a settlement through mediation. Where that occurs, the mediator typically has the parties sign a short settlement memorandum with the basic terms. In both situations, the defendant paying money to a plaintiff will typically require a “general release” of the claims. And, the defense attorneys will prepare or provide this release when the settlement is paid. That’s fine. An injured plaintiff receiving compensation will certainly release or give up his/her claims upon payment.

Yet, far too many defense lawyers stick additional terms in these “release” papers. In essence, the release becomes a much more extensive contract creating potential liability. How many injury attorneys ignore additional and unacceptable terms? How often do these attorneys expose their injured clients to the potential of future liability? It happens far more often than you think. Face it, many mass advertising lawyers spend zero time protecting their injured clients from more harm. When an attorney appears on television in a cape and does not appear in court, it’s a safe bet he or she is not reading settlement paperwork to protect the client. These lawyers advertising fast checks for people in wrecks make the quickest settlement possible. They don’t advocate for maximum compensation. They don’t negotiate costly medical liens to save the client money. And, they don’t read or review settlement paperwork that can create future problems. That’s wrong.

A Lawyer Who Advocated For His Client

The LinkedIn discussion involved a recent Florida workers’ compensation case. Here is the short version of the case — The parties reached a settlement at mediation. At that time, they signed a short agreement. This mediation agreement required the injured plaintiff to sign a “general release” and “resignation” of her employment. The final release and resignation document would be prepared by the defendant. So far, nothing is unusual. The injured plaintiff gets paid and signs a general release of her claims. Plus, here the plaintiff would also resign her employment upon receiving payment. For a number of reasons, the parties to workers’ compensation claims sometimes agree to employment termination at the time of settlement. Again, nothing is unusual about that.

The problem began when the injured plaintiff’s attorneys received the final paperwork — the “general release” and “resignation.” This final paperwork was much more extensive. The defendant’s attorneys had added broad indemnity language. This language actually gave the defendant rights to sue the injured plaintiff in many future situations. So, instead of receiving money and dropping claims, the injured plaintiff was now actually promising to pay the defendants upon certain contingencies. The lawyer for that injured party did the right thing. He refused to sign the paperwork and filed a motion to enforce the mediation settlement. On appeal, the court agreed with him.

Negotiate Specific Terms In Advance

The truth is — some cases do have issues beyond a simple payment and simple release of claims. If they do, the time to discuss these issues is during settlement negotiations. For example, in car wreck cases the injured person may have liens or subrogation claims against them by medical providers. A defendant who pays money for the car wreck may want assurances the injured plaintiff’s counsel will handle those liens so no medical providers file lawsuits. We frequently handle car accident claims and understand that issue. But, you don’t want a defendant adding potential indemnity claims for a host of unrelated issues. Another example relates to confidentiality clauses in settlement paperwork. Some cases involve issues that the parties wish to remain confidential. That’s fine. But, confidentiality needs to be discussed during settlement negotiations for a couple reasons. First, confidentiality provisions can create tax issues. Second, between the time of the initial agreement and the final paperwork containing the surprise confidentiality clause, the parties or their counsel may have told numerous people about the settlement.

If you need a personal injury attorney, seek experienced counsel. Seek an attorney who knows a courtroom. Seek an attorney who will work hard in every phase of your case. Our firm carefully reviews the settlement paperwork for all clients. We consider this an essential part of helping and protecting our clients.

Chamber of Commerce Hypocrisy on Drug Advertisements

Posted in Defective Products, Personal Injury

The article in The Hill begins:

The nation’s leading business group is mounting a new attack on advertisements run by trial lawyers that tell consumers about the negative side effects from medical drugs and devices.

Let me start — I don’t like modern attorney advertising. Locally in northern Alabama, we have an attorney on television advertising for automobile accident injury cases who refuses to help injured people in court. And, we have outside lawyers running ads for drug cases who are not even licensed in Alabama.

I find most of these ads distasteful. I don’t disagree with the complaints about them. Yet, the Chamber of Commerce’s approach is pure hypocrisy. While attacking television advertisements from lawyers, the Chamber has done nothing to reduce deceptive drug company advertisements. The Chamber is protecting the drug companies who rush deadly and dangerous drugs to market for huge profits. As one attorney noted:

The attack ad [by the Chamber] is really inappropriate primarily because it tries to say ‘let’s keep the real side effects private and doctors will prescribe it.’

Will the fight between the Chamber of Commerce and advertising lawyers heat up? According to the article, the Chamber claims lawyer advertisements related to Xarelto were deceptive and resulted in 30 patients suffering injury when they stopped taking the medication after seeing such advertisements. My question — Why isn’t the Chamber raising questions about the huge number of patients who saw television advertisements from Xarelto’s manufacturer, began taking the drug and then suffered an uncontrolled bleeding injury? Why isn’t the Chamber raising questions about direct advertising from drug manufacturers that understates or completely ignores very serious risks?

We need to examine both sides of drug and medical device advertising. The American Association for Justice (AAJ) responded to the Chamber’s push against lawyer advertising by noting:

the pharmaceutical industry has been fighting for decades to continue advertising and selling their products while doing everything to avoid accountability when those drugs hurt patients.

The Chamber and the manufacturers of defective medical products cannot have it both ways. They want to advertise directly to prospective patients. They want consumers to see ads touting an easy cure with a pill. At the same time, in Alabama and many other states, the manufacturers are protected from liability by the Learned Intermediary Doctrine. Under this Doctrine, a drug maker basically fulfills its duty to warn users of a drug’s risks by warning the prescribing physician. In other words, the duty to warn of dangers by drug makers runs to the doctor not the patient. Should this doctrine still protect drug manufacturers who are making sales pitches directly to the public by television advertisements? I don’t think so. Others have questioned the continued application of this defense as well.

Our system for approving and marketing drugs needs an overhaul. Too many dangerous drugs are rushed to market by manufacturers who know the serious risks but hide the facts from the FDA. Then, the same companies market these drugs directly to consumers by television. That’s wrong.

For drug companies, patients have become numbers instead of people. Unfortunately, some lawyers and marketers seeking volumes of clients have the same view. It’s wrong on both sides. Patients injured by dangerous drugs or defective medical devices need dedicated attorneys to advocate on their behalf.

If you are seeking legal counsel for an injury, ask questions. Will you have an attorney who will talk to you throughout the case? Will you have an attorney who will study your medical records and injuries? Is the attorney you called simply going to refer you elsewhere? Will the attorney stay involved in your case? We do. Has the attorney you called handled these cases? We have. You should be satisfied with the attorney you hire. If you are not fully satisfied, talk to several attorneys before making a decision that could greatly impact your future.

Should Alabama Elect Appellate Judges Differently?

Posted in Personal Injury, Supreme Court of Alabama

A recent lawsuit challenges Alabama’s state-wide method of electing appellate court judges. National Public Radio (NPR) interviewed retired Federal Magistrate Judge Vanzetta McPherson about the lawsuit. McPherson previously served the Federal Court in Montgomery.

McPherson answered questions from the NPR host about the new election lawsuit. Alabama elects appellate judges in state-wide elections. The lawsuit alleges this state-wide process is a violation of the Federal Voting Rights Act. As McPherson explained in the NPR interview, minorities are not currently represented on Alabama’s appellate courts.

I’m not an expert on the Voting Rights Act. I will let McPherson discuss that issue. However, I have long advocated a change to our appellate election system so that judges could be elected by districts rather than state-wide. I wrote a prior blog post which discussed the issue in 2010. I welcome McPherson’s discussion concerning diversity and representation on our appellate courts.

McPherson believes district-based elections will increase minority representation on our appellate courts. I agree a district-based system would make our courts more diverse. I believe elections based on districts would bring several improvements. In my 2010 post titled Three Ideas for Reform In Alabama’s Judicial System, I discussed benefits of electing Alabama Supreme Court justices by district. As I noted:

Alabama voters presently elect the Chief Justice of our Supreme Court as well as all 8 associate justices in statewide elections. On several occasions, proposals have been made to elect the 8 associate justices by district. Does our current system allow a candidate to neglect certain areas of the state and focus on major media areas when running for office? Does it allow a candidate with very little practical experience simply to run an advertising campaign statewide? By focusing on districts, it would seem more likely that the successful candidate had developed a reputation for quality legal skills within their local community. It might lessen the ability of less qualified candidates to gain election through mass advertising efforts aimed simply at building name recognition. Moreover, it could provide local courts in that district with a specific justice who could respond to emergency issues.

Partisan judicial elections already compromise the integrity of our judicial system. Research suggests a significant relationship between political contributions and the decisions of judges in actual cases. Are judges who receive significant contributions biased? Maybe or maybe not. But, the acceptance of huge outside contributions creates a perception of bias. We deserve a judicial system free of bias or perceived bias. In recent decades, Alabama’s judicial elections have drawn substantial partisan financial contributions from parties with cases before the court. This influx of campaign money also allows candidates who lack experience or qualifications simply to run a massive television campaign.

Want the best appellate judges? Local lawyers know the individuals in their field who possess the best legal skills, the individuals with the most trial experience and the individuals with the proper temperament to be appellate judges. District-based elections would increase the likelihood a candidate with peer respect as an outstanding lawyer or jurist, would be elected. District-based elections would also lessen the likelihood a candidate with outside money could simply mount a successful, slick television ad campaign. And, district-based elections might provide needed diversity on our appellate courts from all areas of the state.

While I’m no expert on the Voting Rights Act, I do want my personal injury clients to have a voice in a court system free of outside or partisan contributions. I want appellate judges who tried cases in their communities and understand the trial process. We are asking these judges to make decisions about trials that impact our citizens. It is essential we have a system that is fair for all.