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Archive for April, 2011

Is More Government Regulation Needed to Prevent Recalls and Save Lives?

Friday, April 29th, 2011

Larry Barnett

We are used to recalls of automobile parts, children’s toys, electronic devices and grocery items but few expect recalls of defective hip implants already implanted in patients. DePuy ASR implants, a subsidiary of Johnson and Johnson Services, are joining the long list of defective manufacturer recall products.  This month, the Senate Special Committee on Aging heard testimony for persons who had subsequent surgery due to the DePuy hip implant.  One patient, Katie Korgaokar, reportedly told the committee that “In my mind, recalls were for dishwashers and cars, not body parts.” 

The DePuy hip implants are said to release high levels of cobalt and chromium, at sometimes 1,000 percent higher than they should.  This is the same type of chromium poisoning levels that were found in the water, based on the real life movie, Erin Brockovich.   The DePuy hip implants were recalled, by the manufacturer in late August, 2010, due to a high failure rate requiring subsequent surgery over what was expected. Many say the recall should have been much earlier. It is also reported that decay of bone and tissue has also been caused by the implants.  DePuy denies these claims.

The real failure for these hip implants may be due to corporate greed and a lack of government oversight on medical devices. Although, DePuy recalled the product in August, 2010, lawsuits claim that the company was aware of the device’s failure in 2008. One patient, Larry Barnett, who is represented by Texas attorney, Ed Blizzard, put off the surgery for 2 years and finally had the implant inserted  in 2008, due to its claim to last 15 years or longer. 

Ed Blizzard, a tort attorney, is no stranger to large pharmaceutical cases, having represented 200,000 women injured by silicone breast implants, patients inured by diet drugs Ephedra and Fen-Phen and heart attack victims due to Merck’s Vioxx.  Blizzard knows the drug companies “didn’t just uniformly decide to clean up their ways for the betterment of the public.”

In an age when there is a cry by Republicans and the Tea Party movement for less government regulation, there is really a need for more government regulation in the medical device and pharmaceutical arena to address issues before patients are injured or killed.  Patient Larry Barnett, didn’t sign up for an oil spill inside his body when he agreed to hip implant surgery to relieve his pain. But, that’s exactly what he got, according to Blizzard, referring to the dark slime now found inside many patients.

While the debate over government regulation rages on, the need for more government scrutiny is needed to protect and save lives. Today, there are over 93,000 persons who have these types of hip implants worldwide.  Many have endured years of pain before making the decision to undergo hip implant surgery.  Now, they may have to ironically undergo even more years of pain due to the very thing that was supposed to relieve their hip pain. Some may even die as a result.  Saving one life is worth increasing government regulations for medical devices.

Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer who has represented clients in defective products cases. She is also a legal and political commentator who contributes to the Huffington Post.   She holds a juris Doctorate from George Washington University Law School and a BA from the University of Pennsylvania.


Royal Wedding Coverage Trumps Everything

Friday, April 29th, 2011

The media’s coverage and obsession of the royal wedding seems to have trumped all other news for today, including coverage of the US event, a space shuttle launch and the horrific tornado damage in the south. What is this obsession with royalty about?  It baffles me. Yes, I love weddings as much as anyone else viewing the royal wedding. But, I was always told everything in moderation. There has been nothing in moderation about the royal wedding coverage. 

I commend NBC network and Brian Williams.  Apparently, Mr. Williams, along with most of the rest of NBC was assigned to cover the royal wedding. But, when Mr. Williams’ plane landed, he learned of the tremendous tornado damage that occurred in many of the southern states.  He immediately returned to Heathrow Airport to make his way back to the US to cover the events in this country.  Too bad, he did not take some other journalists with him.

My real concern is not the coverage of the royal wedding. I too, took a peak at Kate Middleton and Prince William’s wedding.  But, I didn’t travel to England to see it nor wake up early from home to view it.  I have to wonder if the same people who flew there to stand outside and witness the wedding on jumbo screens , are spending the same amount of money and energy in this country to change our economy.  It’s okay to travel there and spend tourist dollars.  But, charity starts at home.  I just hope we can get on with our lives now that the wedding is over. But, wait, I guess we can’t until there’s still the honeymoon.

Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer who has represented clients in defective products cases. She is also a legal and political commentator who contributes to the Huffington Post.   She holds a juris Doctorate from George Washington University Law School and a BA in American history from the University of Pennsylvania.

Supreme Court Causes Havoc for Class Actions

Thursday, April 28th, 2011

The Supreme Court yesterday dealt a death blow to consumers filing class action suits in ruling that companies can use arbitration clauses in consumer and employment contracts to block class actions.  California judges had held that class action waivers in arbitration clauses are unenforceable. The Supreme Court reversed and thought otherwise.  However, without class actions, it is difficult to hold corporations responsible for harms that affect large numbers of persons. Sometimes, amounts are just  too small for individual law suits but can amount to huge sums of money where many consumers are affected. The case of AT & T v. Concepcion, is a devastating decision for consumers and consumer advocates. 

With the Wal-Mart class action looming before the court, the hand writing may be on the wall as to which way the Supreme Court will decide it. Although, the decision was a close one, with the Court split 5-4, the losing side was clearly the American consumer and the winner was big corporations. Justices Breyer, Ginsburg, Sotomayor  and  Kagan dissented.

 Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer who has represented clients in defective products cases. She is also a legal and political commentator who contributes to the Huffington Post.   She holds a juris Doctorate from George Washington University Law School and a BA from the University of Pennsylvania.


Birther Issue is Here to Stay

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

President Obama released his long version birth-certificate today stating that he wanted to end the “silliness” surrounding the birther issue. President Obama tried to take a rational approach to an irrational issue. Despite the President publicly releasing his birth certificate stating that it was distracting from the other issues, the birther issues and the persons fueling the issue are here to stay.  Nothing short of an impeachment of the President and removal from office will appease them.  Already, the release of the birth certificate has called remarks as to why did it take so long for him to release it.

The birthers are like all other conspiracy issue oriented folks.  They remind me of the persons who say we never landed a man on the moon.  Nothing will convince them otherwise.  Although, they have called for the release of the birth certificate which was released for the President to run for the highest elected office, they want a high court to review it and determine if it is real or fake.  Well, they really want a high court to say it’s fake.  And the Supreme Court rightfully has rejected all cases coming before it on this issue. That should tell us something about the argument.

What the Obama administration fails to understand is insanity.  At this point, there is no other way to describe the persons fueling this debate on the President’s birth.  The better approach would have been to ignore the birthers and allow their rants to become louder.  It will eventually show their ludicrous argument. But one thing is for sure. Racism is not eradicated by the showing of a birth ceritificate. Until we eradicate racism, the birthers are here to stay.

Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer and legal and political commentator.   She also contributes to the Huffington Post.   She addresses issues on race and women. She holds a juris Doctorate from George Washington University Law School and a BA in American history from the University of Pennsylvania

Why is America Fascinated With Britain’s Royal Wedding?

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

All of the media’s coverage of the royal wedding and its effect on Britain’s economy is in stark contrast to the coverage in the US on our royal mess and economy.  All of the major networks and local stations have traveled this week to Britain forgetting that the debt ceiling issue still looms.  Medicare, seniors, students, the uninsured and unemployed and the future of the US are still at risk. While the royal wedding is getting all the media’s attention, I just wonder why some of the attention could not be diverted back to our own issues. Here’s what the media should be reporting about with a little substance over style.

Back at home the Republicans and Rep. Ryan are busy at work to dismantle and end Medicare, Pell   grants for students, Medicaid and social programs to help the poor and elderly.  Last week, Democratic National Committee Interim Chair Donna Brazile said on a conference call:

“Representative Ryan’s budget is one that will ruin the future.  His budget, as we know, ends Medicare, guarantees raises to seniors health costs for everyone under 55. …The Ryan budget approach basically says:  We don’t need the Great Society programs. We don’t need the New Deal. We need to go back to the 1920’s and we don’t need to focus on the future…”

The Ryan budget, if allowed to pass, will bring down the deficit on the backs of America’s poor and elderly while cutting taxes for the rich. Does that seem fair to break the backs of the least of those among us to generate more wealth for the wealthy?  Here’s where we are headed.   USA Today  reported as far as back  September 17, 2009 that “the incomes of the young and middle  aged, especially men, have fallen off a cliff since 2000, leaving many age groups poorer than they were even in the 1970’s.” If Republicans go after the poor and we lose the middle class, many think we will become just like a third world country.

President Obama has stressed that we can cut the deficit without cutting education, innovation and infrastructure to help America win the future.  Speaking of infrastructure, we are headed in the wrong direction.  Senator Bernie Sanders in his historic speech before the Senate on December 10, 2010 said our roads are so bad that we are seeing more accidents due to bad roads than drunk driver or reckless drivers.  Arianna Huffington wrote once that “America’s railway system is speeding down the tracks in reverse.  It is actually one of the few technologies that has actually regressed over the past 80 years.”

We must build on the future without going back to the past, as the Republicans desire.   President Obama must work towards ensuring that we do not lose the middle class, elderly, poor, workers and worsen our infrastructure in the process of fixing the deficit.  That’s a lot for him to handle considering President Obama caved in to renew tax cuts for the wealthy in 2010, then gave away monies for needed social programs and stripped the DC government of its right to use its own funds for abortion.

 Once the royal wedding hoopla is over, I just hope the media will focus once again on what ails America and how to fix it.  I can only dream.  Yet, my hope springs eternal.

Debbie Hines is a lawyer and legal and political commentator. She is frequently seen in the media speaking on issues affecting women and African Americans. She also writes for the Huffington Post. She holds a Juris Doctorate from George Washington University law School and a BA  in American history from the University of PA.

Racist Obama Pics Have Roots in Slavery

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

The recent E-mail sent by Orange County Committee member, Mary Davenport, is not the first racist picture depicting President Obama as part monkey and unfortunately will probably not be the last.  It appears to be the first known one disseminated by a political representative.  Davenport says that she thought the E-mail was well,   ”amusing” but I could come up with a better word.  Those who don’t think the display of images of blacks as monkeys are racist are in denial of their own subconscious or conscious racial views.  And here’s the reason why blacks are offended by such images.

Historically, dating back to slavery, blacks were not considered full human beings.  Blacks were counted as 3/5 of a human.  So, what do you think the other 2/5 would consist of?   The three-fifths compromise is found in Article 1, Section 2, Paragraph 3 of the  United States Constitution. And while its purpose may have been to dilute the power of the southern states and representation in government, the US Constitution still recognized that blacks were less than human.  Following the Civil War and the abolition of slavery by the thirteenth amendment to the United States Constitution in 1865, the three-fifths clause became moot. The fourteenth amendment to the US Constitution in 1868 later superseded   the 3/5 clause and counted the whole of person excluding  “ Indians”. And yet, almost 150 years later, white Americans are still disseminating photos and caricatures depicting blacks as half or part human. 

The latest depicture shared to us by Davenport is not the first showing President Obama or Michelle Obama as part animal.  Beginning in 2009, such despicable images began appearing.  In February, 2009, Barnes and Noble in Coral Gables, Florida , had a display with books of President Obama and a monkey book featured  prominently in the middle of the display. And although Barnes and Noble apologized and stated that an unknown person had inserted the book on monkeys in the same display with President Obama, it shows the backward thinking of individuals.  Then there was the caricature of Michelle Obama with monkey features in Hot Girls blog, among others.  If you do a Google search, you will find many more examples.

What does all of this say or mean? Despite people’s assertions that these photos are amusing, one has to think to whom are they amusing. I think that I can say unequivocally that I know of no blacks that would think a photo of a black person displayed as part monkey is amusing.   And for those white persons, who think otherwise, ask your black friends, assuming you have any, what they think.  They won’t think it’s funny or amusing either.  On purpose, I have not depicted any images that are discussed.

 Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer and legal and political commentator.   She also contributes to the Huffington Post.  She addresses issues on race and women. She holds a juris Doctorate from George Washington University Law School and a BA  in American history from the University of Pennsylvania.