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Texas Highways Safer Than They Were, Still Potentially Dangerous For Drivers

Though traffic fatality numbers have dropped over the past few years, Texas highways remain dangerous.

Among the latest of traffic fatalities, the survivors of a man from East Texas who died have just filed a lawsuit alleging wrongful death. The suit alleges that a truck driver acted with negligence when he backed up his truck and an attached flat-bed trailer against oncoming traffic, which caused a fatal traffic accident.

The accident happened in November 2012. According to the lawsuit, the driver of a Peterbilt truck which was hauling a flatbed trailer missed a turnoff in Franklin County. The driver continued approximately one mile and then backed up his trailer onto a county road, across oncoming traffic. He was maneuvering in the dark, after sunset, as a way to reverse course and go back the way he came.

The deceased, Dennis Smith, was driving in the lane of travel into which the truck had backed up. Smith crashed his vehicle into the trailer, and died as the result of his injuries.

The lawsuit states that it was difficult to identify the trailer’s location in the dark, as Smith approached. Smith’s surviving spouse, Karen Smith, filed suit both individually and on behalf of the Estate against the truck’s company, Michels Corp.

The Texas Department of Public Safety pursued an investigation of the accident and determined that the following “contributing factors” caused the wreck: the truck had “backed without safety” and that the driver exhibited “inattention.” The driver was charged with negligence, criminally negligent homicide, negligence per se and negligence proximate causation.

Karen Smith now seeks an award of damages for bereavement, grief, mental anguish, loss of consortium, physical pain, loss of service, loss of advice, loss of future financial contributions, loss of society and companionship, and expenses covering the victim’s medical care, his funeral and the burial expenses.

Statistics show that Texas traffic fatalities have decreased by as much as 15 percent since 2006, according to numbers compiled by the Texas Department of Transportation. According to the most recent numbers available, Texas saw 3,028 traffic deaths in 2010out of approximately 234 billion miles of traversed by cars, trucks and motorcycles on Texas roads and highways. That translates to just over 1.25 deaths per 100 million miles driven, compared to 2006, when Texas had an estimated 1.5 deaths per 100 million driven. The rate has fallen every year since 2006.

Still, Texas has higher traffic fatality numbers than most states; nationwide traffic fatalities are just over 1.10 incidents per 100 million miles driven.

John Hale is a personal injury attorney and auto accident lawyer helping injury victims near Dallas Texas. Learn more at

Drowsy Driving Is An Underreported Danger

A study recently released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has shed new light on the number of “drowsy driving” incidents. “Drowsy driving,” or falling asleep behind the wheel is an underreported and dangerous issue on the roadways.

Because there is no definitive test to determine sleepiness behind the wheel, state reporting relies on driver self-reporting and police estimates. The NHTSA looked at motor vehicle accidents which resulted in fatalities across the U.S. during 2011. There were 29,757 fatal accidents reported; approximately 707 were assumed to be caused at least in part by drowsy driving. The NHTSA estimates that at least 100,000 police-reported crashes every year were caused by driver fatigue, but the real number may be quite higher.

According to a 205 poll by the National Sleep Foundation, 60 percent of drivers (roughly 168 million people) admitted that they sometimes drive while drowsy, and approximately 103 million people admitted to falling asleep behind the wheel. Thirteen percent of those who admitted to sleeping behind the wheel reported that they did so at least once per month. Eleven million people reported that they had an auto accident or close call due to falling asleep behind the wheel or becoming too tired or sleepy to drive safely.

Sleep or fatigue-related car accidents are highest among adults with young children, late shift workers, and young adult males. Sleep deprivation has been found to greatly increase the risk of an accident; extreme sleepiness can be as dangerous, say researchers, as driving while inebriated. Individuals who sleep six-to-seven hours each night are twice as likely to be in accident as people who sleep eight-or-more hours per night. People who sleep less than five hours a night have a risk of four-to-five times that of individuals who sleep eight hours or more per night. A research study in Australia looked at people who were awake for 24 hours prior to driving and found that their level of fatigue caused them to drive impaired equal to a blood alcohol level of.08, the level considered legally drunk in the U.S.

Drivers may fall asleep at the wheel for as short a time as three or four seconds and not even know they have done so, behavior known as “microsleep.” Drivers who fall asleep at the wheel tend to do so while traveling along long, rural highways while moving at a high rate of speed. Most drowsy driving accidents or near accidents ten to occur between four a.m. and six a.m., between midnight and two a.m., and between 2 o’clock and four o’clock p.m.

Drowsiness while driving affects the reaction time and decision-making skills of the driver. If you or a loved one has been in an accident with a fatigued or drowsy driver, contact the personal injury lawyers at Hale Law Firm.

John Hale is a Waxahachie personal injury attorney and Ellis County personal injury lawyer helping injury victims near Dallas Texas. Learn more at

Faulty Defibrillator Wires Are Once Again Being Recalled

St. Jude’s ultra-thin defibrillator wires are part of a new recall for heart patients.

On January 13, St. Jude Medical Inc. issued a recall of the wire that is used to secure a device designed to close an opening which can occur in the heart between the two upper chambers. According to the recall, the wire has the potential to fracture, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The Amplatzer TorqVue FX Delivery System has been in use since 2012; the product has been recalled by medical device manufacturer due to its potential for fracture when used in some implant practices and to repair some cardiac anatomies. All batches of the device have been recalled after a number of the wires fractured during surgery. While there have not yet been any reported deaths or serious injuries associated with the product, physicians have been advised to stop using the product and remove it from surgical inventory. Physicians have been advised to use a previous version of the same system which has a somewhat different design. The devices are considered a Class I recall; the patients who received the device are in danger of being seriously injured or killed if it fails.

This is the latest recall in the wake of a larger St. Jude’s recall in 2010, when the manufacturer’s Riata defibrillators were taken off the marker after they were found to have insulation capable of eroding. Almost 80,000 heart patients in the U.S. still have the implant in a blood vessel which leads to the heart.

Extracting defibrillator leads is a risky surgery; it is estimated that many patients with the Riata leads will continue to live with them rather than risk the surgery. Reportedly, two patients have died and one was seriously injured during surgery to remove faulty Riata leads. St. Jude Medical Inc. manufactures and distributes a wide variety of medical devices, implanted defibrillators and pacemakers. In 2012, the company recalled two other similar wires, QuickFlex and QuickSite.

The FDA has ordered St. Jude to conduct a three-year study in which to learn about the risk of insulation failure. The Riata was noted for its ultra-thin wires and was popular with surgeons, but a recent study has shown that 15 percent of patients who received the Riata defibrillator lead later experienced an “insulation breach” or “insulation abrasion,” where the defoliator wires protruded from the cable’s coating. In late 2011, the FDA issued a Class 1 recall for Riata leads when it was found that they were failing at a high rate.

If you have any concerns about your pacemaker or defibrillator or any surgical implants you have received, speak with a Waxahachie personal attorney at Hale Law Firm.

John Hale is a Waxahachie personal injury attorney and Ellis County personal injury lawyer helping injury victims near Dallas Texas. Learn more at

NECC Employees Subpoenaed, NECC Blames Cleaners For Fungal Meningitis

Employees of the New England Compounding Center are expected to soon begin testifying about the role that pharmacy played in the fungal meningitis outbreak. A federal grand jury in Boston has issued subpoenas as part of an investigation into potential criminal charges.

Boston prosecutors may be looking to charge NECC with several crimes, including fraud, violating the FDA act by selling tainted medication, and defrauding Medicare and Medicaid. NECC’s managing pharmacist, Barry Cadden, previously invoked his Fifth Amendment right during questioning by Congress in late 2012.

There are now 70 lawsuits against NECC, and dozens more are winding their way through the system, with an estimated 400 cases against the compounding company. NECC has asked that all the fungal meningitis lawsuits be consolidated before Boston’s U.S. District Judge Dennis Saylor.

Judge Saylor granted a request for a temporary consolidation of one dozen fungal meningitis lawsuits, and advised NECC to preserve all evidence now that the company’s offices and laboratories are shut down.

To date, more than 650 people have been sickened by the tainted steroid shots which inadvertently contained a rare form of fungal meningitis. The lawsuits filed are alleging that NECC produced a defective and dangerous product due to negligent practices and conditions. At least 40 people have died.

In a recent filing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Boston, a federal bankruptcy court official stated that “gross mismanagement” by NECC officers led to the fungal meningitis outbreak.

Meanwhile, in early January 2013, attorneys for NECC sent a letter to the janitorial company which provided cleaning services to NECC’s laboratories, demanding that it take legal responsibility for the tainted steroids. UniFirst’s “Uniclean” business provided what NECC’s attorneys characterized as “limited, once-a-month cleaning services” for the compounding company’s cleanroom facilities. UniFirst responded with a statement that the claim was “without merit.”

The cleaning services that were requested by NECC consisted of two UniClean techs cleaning cleanrooms for ninety minutes once a month, using NECC’s own cleansing solutions, UniClean stated. UniClean claims that its services did not have anything to do with NECC’s day-to-day operations, the overall cleanliness of the facilities, or the sterility of the products produced there.

As part of their investigation, inspectors with the CDC and FDA examined other unopened vials manufactured at NECC and found additional bacterial contamination.

John Hale is a Waxahachie personal injury attorney and Ellis County personal injury lawyer helping injury victims near Dallas Texas. Learn more at

New Safety Recall of More than 200,000 Infant Travel Beds

The Consumer Product Safety Commission just announced a recall of infant beds. Children’s safety equipment manufacturer KidCo Inc. is working with CPSC to recall approximately 220,000 infant travel beds in light of nine reported entrapment incidents and at least one infant death while using the portable sleep tent. It has been determined that a baby might get trapped by rolling into the space between the bed’s air mattress and the tent’s fabric sides, and suffocate.

The Pea Pod Travel Crib includes an air mattress that tucks into a closeable envelope built into the dome tent floor. The domed tent is designed to collapse for travel, but when the inflatable mattress is in the tent floor, as designed, there is a space between the floor and the soft wall where the infant’s head can get lodged. It is believed that a 5-month-old baby boy became trapped in such a manner while napping in late 2011. He had his twin sister were placed the Pea Pod Travel Crib. The sister survived. The baby boy died.

The Pea Pod Travel Crib has been on the market since 2005, and approximately 220,000 have been sold nationwide. This recall is the first for KidCo Inc. The company is offering modification kits to travel crib owners which are designed to strengthen the tent sides, and also includes a replacement mattress that is thinner to remove the risk of suffocation.

The company has stated that they believe the safety kit addresses any safety issues the travel crib may have. However, the safety consumer group Kids in Danger has said that they would rather the company issue refunds so that parents can purchase a different item, one tested for sleep safety. A product must be considered a crib, bassinet or play yard to be tested for sleep safety.

The Pea Pod Travel Crib and the PeaPod Plus Travel Beds were manufactured in China and distributed nationwide in stores and by starting in January 2005.

John Hale is a Waxahachie personal injury attorney and Ellis County personal injury lawyer helping injury victims near Dallas Texas. Learn more at

BPA Is Linked to Thyroid Hormone Changes, Study Finds

Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical found in numerous household products, including plastic water bottles and canned food linings. Researchers are increasingly concerned about the effect BPA has on human health and have long-suspected that BPA may be affecting hormone levels in children and pregnant women. A new study out of UC Berkeley appears to definitively show a clear link between BPA and thyroid hormone changes in infant boys and pregnant women, say researchers.

“Researchers continue to study how BPA can affect the health of women and children,” cautions John Hale, Waxahachie personal injury attorney. “The long-lasting effects are still not known.” Thyroid hormones affect the growth and brain development of infants and young children.

The study looked at women in California’s Central Valley. Study co-author and Associate Director of UC Berkeley’s Center for Environmental Research and Children’s Health, Kim Harley, cautioned that there is still a great deal more to study regarding BPA and its potentially long-lasting effects. According to numerous studies, more than 90 percent of U.S. women in their child-bearing years that have been tested have levels of BPA in their urine.

The researchers analyzed the levels of BPA in samples from 335 women: most of the women and their children had thyroid levels which tested in the normal range, but for each woman who had a doubling of BPA level, researchers found that there was a corresponding decrease in T4, a thyroid hormone. For children, the opposite was true: for each child with a mother who had a high level of BPA, the child had an increase in thyroid activity. While more studies need to be completed, the current theory is that a lack of thyroid hormone in the mother may trigger thyroid overcompensation in the child.

The estrogen-like chemical is found in many plastic products, including drinking bottles, baby bottles, and dental sealants, as well as in the lining of cans for food and beverages, and in some sales receipt paper. Due to growing health concerns, BPA has been banned in the use of manufacturing in California since 2011, and this July, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration prohibited the use of the chemical in child sippy cups and baby bottles.

John Hale is a Waxahachie personal injury attorney and Ellis County personal injury lawyer helping injury victims near Dallas Texas. Learn more at

Hazing At School Triggers Civil Lawsuit

A lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, claiming that school officials allowed hazing. According to the claim, the Huber Heights City School officials knew that there were hazing incidents between athletes and student in the form of attacks, but they did not take action which would protect the students.

The attorney for the plaintiff stated that they were attempting to increase awareness at educational institutions regarding hazing incidents and push school officials to take steps to prevent them. The attorney stated that school officials looked the other way when sports teams did hazing-type actives as a way to bond and build “team unity.” School officials stated that they could not comment on the lawsuit but that they take hazing and bullying seriously. The civil lawsuit seeks punitive damages and compensation from two teenage boys who were convicted of a sexual assault as part of the incident against a classmate.

“Schools need to investigate reports of hazing and take proactive steps to discourage such behavior,” stated John Hale, Waxahachie personal injury attorney.

The victim, a freshman aged 14 years at the time of the incident, stated that he believed the assault was retaliation after he and an upperclassmen became involved in a dispute at the school gym. The boys who attacked him were on the school baseball team.

Though felony rape charges were considered, in the end, one boy pled guilty to second-degree felony assault; the other boy pled guilty to first-degree misdemeanor assault. Both boys were suspended from school for 10 days. The felony offender was given a sentence (suspended) at a youth facility, while the offender charged with a misdemeanor received probation.

One of the boys identified as an offender reportedly told police he, too, had been assaulted similarly as a freshman, and witnesses later came forward to report that they had also been assaulted as freshmen. All three students reported that they believed it was such standard behavior that he felt the assaults were known to school authorities, including coaches. The victim’s attorney contends that the multiple reports of similar activity points to school officials knowing that the hazing regularly took place, and did not do anything to stop it.

The civil suit is seeking damages against the attackers for battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress and false imprisonment, in excess of $75,000.

John Hale is a Waxahachie personal injury attorney and Ellis County personal injury lawyer helping injury victims near Dallas Texas. Learn more at

Personal Injury Claims Can be Compromised By Social Media

Facebook currently claims approximately one billion users, while Twitter has at least one million. And for all of those social media posts and tweets, there is an audience. That is something users should keep in mind in light of potential legal proceedings. Even though a Facebook post or a twitter “tweet” may be deleted after the fact, there are ways to retrieve that information.

Litigants are requesting to examine electronic media with growing regularity, including emails, social media information and search engine history. Very little regarding social media is private, something may users forget on a regular basis. Bottom line? If you want something to be private, don’t share it.

According to the Fourth Amendment, a litigant has a right to privacy, but whether that includes tweets and Facebook postings, which, by their very nature are to be shared socially, may depend on who is deciding at the time. In Katz v. United States. Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347, 361, 88 S.Ct. 507, 516-17 (1967), the test of The Fourth Amendment is the “reasonable expectation of privacy:” whether an individual has shown that he or she seeks to preserve something as private, and whether an individual’s expectation of privacy is one that society is prepared to recognize as “reasonable.”

According to Facebook’s terms and conditions, as a user, you own the content you type into your profile and on others’ walls, but Facebook claims ownership of the content governed by Intellectual Property Rights. Photographs or videos posted by Facebook members are not generally covered by a reasonable expectation of privacy, as Facebook owns or co-owns them while they are on Facebook and for some short time thereafter.

Is your expectation of privacy when using Facebook reasonable, or can what you post be used as evidence against you? That may depend on how the judge considers the internet and privacy. If you are facing civil litigation, know that the plaintiff and defendant are typically entitled to anything that is considered reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence, which is a broad definition, to say the least. The evidence does not need to be known to be relevant ahead of time, just “reasonably calculated,” which keeps the door wide open.

While something may be “reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence,” it may not later be admissible in court, but there is no way to know for certain ahead of time.

John Hale is a Waxahachie personal injury attorney and Ellis County personal injury lawyer helping injury victims near Dallas Texas. Learn more at

Meningitis Outbreak Leads To Examination of Compounding Pharmacies

There are currently at least 184 cases of meningitis in the U.S., including 14 fatalities, confirmed by the Center for Disease Control. The fungal meningitis outbreak started when steroid medication was contaminated with a fungus and the fungus was injected into the bloodstream when the shots were administered to patients. Infection has been recorded in numerous states, including Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia and numbers are expected to increase: the incubation period can take as long as three months.

According to Dr. Ilisa Bernstein, the acting director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research Office of Compliance, the FDA is examining the way compounding pharmacies are monitored for safety. A compounding pharmacist customizes medication as needed to fit each individual’s need; if a dosage is too large or needs to be delivered without dyes, for example, the pharmacist can combine medications, or “compound” them. Compounding, or combining different items to make a specialty medication, was the standard way all medications were manufactured until the 1950s, when mass production became the norm.

Pharmacies like The New England Compounding Center may compound medications for specific prescriptions, and are usually supervised by that state’s pharmacy boards. The New England Compounding Center has been in the spotlight previously: the FDA looked at their compounding practices in 2006 and stated that the firm’s actions were inconsistent in its compounding practices and acted more like a drug manufacturer.

While compounding production is legally restricted to individual prescriptions, the pharmacy may have mass produced the compounding production, which is why such a large batch was contaminated. The New England Compounding Center where the medication was compounded has recalled more than 17,000 vials of the injectable steroid treatment used for back and joint pain. The fungi which has tainted the steroid includes Aspergillus fumigatus and Exserohilum, and are often found in grass, leaf mold, grass, and old wood.

At this time, it is believed that as many as 14,000 people received the contaminated steroid injections. Some 90 percent of those individuals have been contacted. Multiple investigations are ongoing and Connecticut’s Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut has called for a criminal investigation into the company.

Symptoms of meningitis include fever, headache, and nausea. An infection of the membranes which cover the brain and spinal cord, fungal meningitis must be treated in a timely fashion. It is not contagious.

John Hale is a Waxahachie personal injury attorney and Ellis County personal injury lawyer helping injury victims near Dallas Texas. Learn more at

Birth Defect Lawsuit Filed in Texas Related to Antidepressant Zoloft

A lawsuit was filed on behalf of the parents of a child who they say was born with a number of heart defects, which resulted from the use of Zoloft. This drug is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) used to treat depression and/or anxiety. Although some research has indicated there could be a link between the use of Zoloft during pregnancy and persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn or heart defects of the septum, these links have yet to be confirmed. The risks now appear to be very low, but some risk means there could be some danger.

The lawsuit filed in a Texas district court claimed the drug company Pfizer was aware of Zoloft’s potential side effects, or should have been. It says the drug manufacturer did not properly warn the public of potential side effects such as heart defects. The parents involved in the suit said they were led to believe the drug is perfectly safe to take during pregnancy. They also say a number of conditions their daughter was born with—including hypoplastic right ventricle, right coronary ostial atresia, pulmonary atresia and patent ductus arterioles—were caused by the drug being used during pregnancy.

According to the Children’s Heart Institute, a hypoplastic right ventricle is a small and weak right ventricle or chamber. The right ventricle’s normal growth was blocked in the early heart development, when the tricuspid valve did not open. Right coronary ostial atresia is rare and occurs only in about one to two percent of congenital heart disease cases. Pulmonary atresia occurs when the valve on the right side of the heart is blocked so blood cannot flow properly. Each one of these conditions is serious enough on its own, but having multiple heart defects at the same time is extremely challenging.

When the mother in the case asked her physician about the side effects of Zoloft during pregnancy, the lawsuit claims she was told there were none. Allegedly, Pfizer knew of such side effects but did not disclose them until sometime later.

Several studies have attempted to examine the relationship between SSRIs and birth defects, such as one conducted in 2007 at the Slone Epidemiology Center at the University of Boston, but this one found the association may only be possible. A different study conducted earlier did find some association and said further study was needed. Both were published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

There are so many factors at play, both medically and legally speaking, it is very difficult to predict if the case in Texas could be a precedent for later class action lawsuits.