When a Corporation is ‘Too Big to Care’ About Breaking the Law

09/25/2015 // Hartford, CT, USA // cttriallawyers // Neil Ferstand // (press release)

The Connecticut Trial Lawyers Association ongoing effort to transmit a variety of civil justice news items to Connecticut legislators reflecting the importance and extent to which civil justice and the civil justice system enters our lives. The week, legislators learned more about the dangerous marketing conduct by J&J who directed their sales force to illegally promote side effect ridden Risperdal to children and the elderly. The dangerous conduct would not have surfaced except for the public disclosure of information as a result of several lawsuits targeting the conduct. In further news, legislators learned of a recent federal study on the 2% rise of workplace deaths of older employees, contract workers and the self-employed. Latinos suffered the highest rate of job deaths at 3.6% of 100,000 workers followed by 3.4% for whites and 3.0% for African-American workers. Additional news items included reference to consumer studies of U.S. fast food chains that rely heavily on antibiotics in their foods. Subway, Starbucks, KFC and Domino’s Pizza were given an “F” for excessive antibiotic use. More news included new child safety measures for laundry pods and new FDA steps to ensure effectiveness of cleaning machines for scope used in medical procedures.

When a Corporation Is 'Too Big to Care' About Breaking the Law

That is the subject of the first in the HuffPo/Highline series, explaining how J&J [Johnson & Johnson] has pushed its salespeople to promote Risperdal illegally to children and the elderly. The drug has horrible hormonal side effects for children and can be lethal for the elderly.

J&J's misconduct would have remained largely hidden had it not been for lawsuits against the company by those injured or made sick. Indeed, this case illustrates one of the most important functions of civil lawsuits: public disclosure of information. Yet the article also crystalizes how one of the other critical functions of litigation – deterrence of unsafe practices – seems to have been upended. These days, a company making $20.6 billion can, "break the rules with relative impunity, or at least without suffering the kind of punishment that would actually hurt."


Workplace Deaths in U.S. Rise 2 Percent, Federal Report

More Americans died on the job last year, with the increase concentrated among older employees as well as self-employed and contract workers. Preliminary federal figures released today for 2014 put the workplace death total at 4,679, up 2 percent from the final count of 4,585 for 2013.

The new figures amount to the highest preliminary death total in six years, and the total will almost certainly grow by the time final numbers for 2014 are issued in the spring.
Growth in employment played a big role in the higher fatality figures reported today, but experts said other factors were involved, too.

Overall, the death rate was 3.3 per 100,000 workers last year, the same as the final tally for 2013, but up from 2013’s preliminary level of 3.2.

While Latinos suffered the highest rate of on the job deaths, 3.6 per 100,000 workers, their number was down from a final rate of 3.9 last year. The rate for whites held steady, but those for African-American and Asian-American workers edged up. In 2014, the rates were 3.4 for whites, 3.0 for African-Americans and 1.7 for Asian-Americans.


Who’s the Boss When You Work for a Franchise or Contractor?

In a decision that’s been called the greatest expansion of union rights in decades, the National Labor Relations Board has ruled that if a corporation uses contractors or franchisees, contract workers who unionize can negotiate with the parent company and their direct employer. Previously, unions could often only deal with the contractor or franchise owner, greatly limiting their bargaining power. Critics of the ruling say it unfairly makes corporations responsible for workers they haven’t hired and conditions over which they have no control.

Child Safety Measures for Packaging of Laundry Pods Are Approved

The new standard approved by A.S.T.M., the American Society for Testing and Materials, calls for manufacturers to add a bitter taste to the soluble film encasing the detergent to deter children from putting the pods in their mouths, and to make the film take longer to dissolve once wet.
The recommendations also include options for making containers harder for curious toddlers to open — for example, closures that require dexterity or strength.


Poverty may increase odds of repeat hospitalizations

When patients are hospitalized more than once in the same month, it may have more to do with their income or education levels than the quality of care they received, a U.S. study suggests.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, patients 85 and older are more likely to return to the hospital within 30 days of being sent home than people a decade or two younger, according to the analysis of data from Medicare, the U.S. health program for the elderly and disabled.
But patients also have higher odds of returning soon after discharge if they lack a high school diploma, have limited income and assets or have health benefits from Medicaid, the U.S. health program for the poor.

Cheesemakers concerned with FDA fact-finding mission on raw milk.

Politico (9/15, Evich, 942K) reports that the Food and Drug Administration’s fact-finding into the health risks of raw milk cheese is “spooking a small and disparate community of US artisan cheesemakers.” The cheesemakers argue that raw milk “creates a more intense taste and richer texture that can’t be replicated with pasteurized milk, and shouldn’t be conflated with the issues attached to raw milk.” The agency, however, “justifies its concerns by citing a handful of cases in which raw milk cheese has led to illnesses.”

US fast food still relies on antibiotics, consumer groups say.

Reuters (9/15, Baertlein) reports that most US fast-food chains still rely on supplies from farms routinely using antibiotics and have not made plans to phase out the practice, according to a new report by consumer groups. The report listed Subway, Starbucks, KFC and Domino’s Pizza as being given an “F” grade for their antibiotic policies.

FDA takes steps to ensure effectiveness of cleaning machines for medical scopes.

USA Today (9/16, Eisler, 5.23M) reports that “amid rising concerns about superbug outbreaks linked to contaminated medical scopes, federal regulators are demanding more rigorous testing of the machines used to clean the devices – and cracking down on manufacturers that don’t meet government standards.” The Food and Drug Administration has taken steps to “ensure the effectiveness of Automated Endoscope Reprocessors, or AERs, which are akin to high-tech dishwashers used to clean medical scopes between uses.” William Maisel, deputy director at the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, said, “The agency considers this an urgent public health matter of great importance, so it is our expectation that all (AER) firms…will respond quickly to our inquiries.” He added, “We did ask each of the AER firms to conduct additional testing…(and) to make the testing more challenging.”
DOT opposes proposed longer, heavier semitruck trailers.

KPRC-TV Houston (9/15, Larson, 293K) reports that semitrucks with dual trailers “could get longer and heavier if two bills make their way through the federal government.” One bill “would allow each dual trailer to be 5 feet longer, for a total of 10 additional feet,” the article reports, while the other bill “would allow trucks to have a maximum weight of 91,000 pounds instead of the current limit of 80,000 pounds.” The US Transportation Department “recently wrote a letter urging Congress not to allow longer trailers, saying there hasn’t been enough safety testing.” The letter written by the by US Transportation Under Secretary Peter Rogoff to Transportation Committee Chairman Rep. Bill Shuster says, “At this time, the Department believes that the current data limitations are so profound that the results cannot accurately be extrapolated to predict national impacts. As such, the Department believes that no changes in the relevant truck size and weight laws and regulations should be considered until these data limitations are overcome.”

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