Gabriel Mejia, Esq.: December 2009 Archives

December 29, 2009

Paxil Lawsuits Costing Manufacturer Approx. $1 Billion

Paxil is an antidepressant manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline which is used to treat a variety of psychological disorders including depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, anxiety, and other mental issues.  Paxil is a member of a group of drugs known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) and is used to balance serotonin levels in the brain.  However, since Paxil's introduction on the market in 1993, the potentially dangerous drug has been plagued with complaints of serious adverse medical events including an increase in suicide rates and attempts, addiction, and birth defects.

According to reports, Glaxo has paid nearly $390 million for suicide death and attempts attributed to Paxil.  The family of a Valparaiso, Indiana, boy who killed himself shortly after he started taking Paxil recently settled their suit against Glaxo for an undisclosed amount.  In that case and other suicide cases, Glaxo has attempted to blame the suicides on the underlying depression and not the drug itself.  However, Glaxo has reportedly settled 150 Paxil-related suicide cases and 300 Paxil-related suicide attempt cases.

Paxil has also been linked to severe birth-defects in children whose mothers took the antidepressant while pregnant.  In October, a Philadelphia jury found that Glaxo negligently failed to warn doctors of Paxil's risk to pregnant women and found that Paxil caused the heart defect in the three-year-old boy involved in the case.  The jury awarded the family $2.5 million in compensatory damages including future medical care.  According to reports, this case was the first of some 600 lawsuits against Glaxo for failing to warn of Paxil's dangers to pregnant women.  Glaxo has reportedly settled 10 other birth-defect cases to date.

Paxil has also been accused of causing addiction and severe withdrawal effects for those attempting to quit the drug.   According to reports, Glaxo has settled nearly 3,200 cases involving addiction-related complaints and complications.

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December 21, 2009

Davie, Florida Man Severs Leg in Airboat Accident

A Davie, Florida, man's leg was severed recently in an airboat accident that occurred in the remote western swamps of Miami-Dade County.  According to reports, three Davie residents occupied a homemade airboat when it collided with another vessel that was occupied by residents of Pembroke Pines, Hollywood, and Davie.  Although the boat crash is still under investigation, it is believed that the man's leg was severed after he fell into the propeller.  The man was airlifted by Miami-Dade Fire Rescue, along with the other two occupants of the airboat, to Ryder Trauma Center in Miami.

According to the U.S. Coast Guard's Recreational Boating Statistics 2008, collision with another vessel ranks first among all boating accidents with 1237 incidents, 856 injuries, and 60 deaths for the year.  The leading cause of boating accidents is careless or reckless operation of the vessel.  Airboat accidents represent only a small percentage of the total recreational boating accidents with 2 reported drowning deaths attributed to airboat operation and 25 injuries.  In Florida, there were 616 total boating accidents with 55 fatalities and 371 injured people in 2008.

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December 11, 2009

Florida Vehicle Alert: Toyota Issues Massive Defect Recall

Toyota has recently announced a recall of several models of both Toyota and Lexus vehicles that is estimated to affect some 4.26 million vehicles throughout the United States and Canada. The recall comes because of complaints that the gas pedal in these vehicles can become stuck in the depressed position causing uncontrolled acceleration.  According to reports, this "pedal entrapment" has been blamed for the deaths of 19 people since the 2002 model year.  The problem was initially thought to be caused by mispositioned floor mats, but the recall goes beyond floor mats and addresses design issues of the gas pedals, floor board, and computer system.

The initial recall of potentially defective Toyota and Lexus vehicles began in September when Toyota warned that owners of specific models should immediately remove the floor mats to help prevent unanticipated acceleration from pedal entrapment.  This most recent recall includes Toyota technicians physically modifying the gas pedal to reduce the length by three-quarters of an inch, replacing genuine Toyota or Lexus all-weather floor mats, and installing a brake override system that will cut engine power when both the accelerator and the brake are pressed at the same time.  Some vehicles will also have the padding beneath the gas pedal replaced with a thinner pad to increase clearance between the pedal and the floorboard.

The latest rounds of repairs are scheduled to begin January 2010 and are estimated to exceed $250 million in parts and labor.  The potentially defective pedals that are modified during this time are anticipated to be replaced by properly manufactured parts when they become available.  The brake override system, which is often referred to as "smart pedal" technology and utilized by other auto manufacturers, is scheduled to be implemented as standard equipment on all Toyota and Lexus vehicles manufactured after January 2010.

Although Toyota seems to deny that an actual defect exists in the affected vehicles, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released a statement to correct what it described as "inaccurate and misleading information" being propagated by Toyota.  The NHTSA stated that removing the floor mats in these potentially dangerous vehicles was only an interim measure and did not correct the underlying defect in the vehicle which causes pedal entrapment.  The NHTSA assured consumers that it would continue to investigate the issue until the defect is corrected with a vehicle-based solution.

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