Gabriel Mejia, Esq.: November 2009 Archives

November 30, 2009

FDA Recalls Defective Synex II Vertebral Body Replacement after Failures

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a Class I recall of Synthes USA's Synex II Vertebral Body Replacement. The Class I recall is the most serious recall and was issued because the medical device presents a reasonable probability of serious injury. The defective medical device, which is used to replace damaged vertebrae in the thoracic and lumbar spine, may fail after implantation causing a loss in the vertebral body replacement height.

According to the FDA, the failure of the device can lead to neural injury, pain, kyphosis, and the need for corrective surgery. Because of the danger associated with this defective medical device, surgeons and hospitals have been ordered to cease using the vertebral body replacements immediately. The defective products subject to recall were manufactured from June 2007 through September 2009. A complete list of the vertebral body replacement part numbers subject to the Class I recall can be found on the FDA's website.

Action by the FDA comes after Synthes USA began recalling the Synex II device in September amidst six adverse incident reports of the vertebral body replacements' failure. Patients with increased pain or other symptoms are advised to contact their surgeon for evaluation. Patients can report adverse incidents to the MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program established by the FDA.

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November 23, 2009

Fort Lauderdale, Florida Train Accident Kills Two, Critically Injures Another

A South Florida Tri-Rail train crashed into a car on Thursday at the Commercial Boulevard crossing in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.  The crossing is located between Commercial Boulevard's extremely busy intersections with Powerline Road and Interstate 95.  According to reports, the car stopped on the tracks as the crossing arms lowered around the vehicle.   The driver attempted to reverse off the tracks, but was prevented by the crossing arms.  The driver then tried to pull forward out of the path of the train, but did so too late and was dragged some 60 feet after the train impacted the side of the vehicle.  Two people were thrown from the vehicle and died at the scene, while a third occupant was taken a local hospital for treatment of the severe injuries sustained after the train accident.

Although the accident is still under investigation, reports claim that witnesses at the scene told investigators that warning lights were flashing at the time of the accident.  The Miami-Herald reported that traffic often backs up onto the tracks at the Commercial Boulevard crossing especially during rush hour.  According to the report, there have been seven accidents at this specific crossing which resulted in three deaths and two injuries since 1989 despite unsuccessful or unimplemented experimental safety measures including cameras to warn conductors of vehicles in the crossings.  Statewide in 2007, there were 90 accidents at rail-road crossings between trains and cars or pedestrians that resulted in 20 fatalities and 63 injuries in Florida according to the U.S. Department of Transportation State Transportation Statistics.

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November 17, 2009

Hollywood, Florida Car Accident Ends in Fiery Tragedy

A multiple vehicle accident in Hollywood, Florida, last night closed the southbound lanes of I-95 during the evening rush hour until approximately 10:30 p.m.  According to reports, the driver of an SUV sideswiped two vehicles and attempted to flee from the scene.  In this attempt, the fleeing driver struck another car and finally crashed into another SUV that was stopped in the emergency lane.  Both SUVs burst into flames, trapping and killing the driver of the stopped SUV.  The alleged at-fault driver of the SUV and the occupants of the other vehicles were transported to local hospitals for treatment of their car accident injuries.

This deadly car accident, while tragic, also serves as a reminder of the importance for South Florida drivers to carry uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage.  Uninsured/underinsured motorist policies provide coverage from your insurance carrier when you are involved in an accident and the negligent driver either has no insurance coverage or not enough insurance coverage.  Uninsured/underinsured insurance policies also usually cover accidents that involve a hit-and-run, or phantom, driver that cannot be identified after the accident.

Although the identity of the at-fault driver is likely known in the Hollywood, Florida, car accident, often times negligent drivers flee the scene of an accident and are never identified.  Many times, negligent or reckless drivers flee the scene of an accident because they do not have insurance.  Regardless of whether the driver flees or remains at the scene, if he or she is underinsured or uninsured, your UM/UIM policy will contribute to your compensation for the accident if you have elected such coverage.

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November 10, 2009

Miami, Florida Pedestrians Face Serious Danger on Roads

Miami and the surrounding metropolitan area has been ranked the third most dangerous location for pedestrians in a recent study conducted by Transportation for America and the Surface Transportation Policy Partnership.  The third most dangerous location for pedestrians includes the areas of Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Pompano Beach and their suburbs.  The Miami metropolitan area ranked just behind two other Florida locations -- Orlando-Kissimmee and Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater -- which ranked first and second, respectively, as the most dangerous areas for pedestrians to walk.  Major Florida cities took four of the top five spots on the list with Jacksonville, Florida, ranking as the fourth most dangerous area for pedestrian traffic.

The study entitled Dangerous by Design looked not only at the number of pedestrian deaths in a given year, but rather focused on the ratio of pedestrian deaths per 100,000 people to the percentage of pedestrians walking to work.  The study found that even though relatively few people choose to walk in these Florida cities compared to other cities, the people that do are at a much greater risk of being killed or injured after being hit by a car. 

The report focuses on the design of modern roadways and communities as the cause of the dangerous conditions faced by South Florida walkers.  With sprawling suburban areas and arterial roads built to move the greatest amount of vehicular traffic at the quickest possible pace, often times sidewalks, crosswalks, and crossing signals are designed out either because of space or budget restrictions.  These reductions coupled with the increased speed at which vehicles are allowed to travel create serious dangers for pedestrians on Florida roadways.  As the report points out, the survival rate for pedestrians struck by a vehicle traveling at 20 mph is 95% but drops drastically to 55% when the vehicle is traveling 30 mph and even lower to 15% when a pedestrian is struck by a vehicle traveling 40 mph.  When you combine these considerations with the ever-growing distractions facing drivers, you have a serious recipe for disaster.

Dangerous roads and sprawling communities also have an effect on the desire of South Florida residents to walk.  No one wants to walk in areas that do not provide proper sidewalks and crossing assistance or in areas where they face such a high risk of being injured or killed by a vehicle.  This not only creates more road congestion by forcing more people to drive upon our roadways to locations accessible by foot, but also forces people to walk less and get less exercise which is a serious health concern.

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November 5, 2009

Firemen and Police Officers Can Sue Property Owners in Florida

Prior to the enactment of Florida Statute § 112.182 in 1990, police officers and firefighters in Florida were not able to sue property owners for ordinary negligence that resulted in injury while they were on duty.  Police officers and firefighters were considered licensees upon the premises they were responding to, and the owners or occupiers of the premises only had to refrain from wanton negligence or willful conduct and were only responsible for warning of known, unseen dangers.  The justification for such a rule was that firefighters and police officers often respond to emergency situations at unexpected times and locations on the property of people in need.

However, with the enactment of Fla. Stat. § 112.182, the Florida legislature statutorily defined firefighters and police officers as invitees and effectively abolished the common law Firefighter Rule.  Under this statute, property owners owe a duty of care to firefighters and police officers lawfully on the premises to maintain the premises in a reasonably safe condition and to correct and warn of dangers the owner either knows of or should have known of with reasonable care and inspection.  This change put police officers and firefighters into the same status as any other person lawfully on the property.  See Potts v. Johnson, 654 So.2d 596 (Fla. 3rd DCA 1995).

Law Offices & used § Fla. Stat. 112.182 to the benefit of one of its clients early in the statute's infancy.  Our firm represented a police officer that was injured on county property while responding to an urgent call.  As he stepped out of his vehicle, the officer stepped into a drainage ditch that was inadequately marked and blocked off, and the officer suffered a broken leg.  The abolition of the Firefighter Rule in Florida levels the field for police officers and firefighters that are lawfully upon the property of another while on duty, and allows them to recover for injuries sustained do to the property owner or occupier's negligence in maintaining the property.

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