Our attorneys are looking into the recent multi-state outbreak of fungal meningitis from tainted shots provided by the New England Compounding Center (NECC). The NECC has voluntarily expanded its recall to include all products currently in circulation that were compounded at and distributed from its facility in Framingham, Massachusetts. In North Carolina, three clinics have been identified as definitely receiving the recalled product: • High Point Surgery Center - High Point, North Carolina • Surgical Center of Wilson - Wilson, North Carolina • North Carolina Orthopaedic Clinic - Durham, North Carolina The FDA is currently looking into all products associated with NECC which could include up to 33 facilities in NC. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a Health Advisory (link), which contains updated information and guidance regarding the multi-state outbreak of meningitis and stroke associated with potentially contaminated steroid medication. As of October 26th the FDA announced serious concerns with the safety of the "clean room" of NECC and concerns about contamination going forward. FDA press release. As of 10/9/12, 13,000 people have been exposed to the steroid medication. 119 cases have been identified in 10 states, resulting in 11 deaths associated with this multi-state outbreak of fungal meningitis. In North Carolina there have been two (2) cases reported to date. Au of 10/23/2012 the associated press was reporting 308 cases with 23 deaths in 17 different states. If you have had an epidural steroid injection at one of the above facilities and have questions regarding your health, please see your doctor as recommended by the CDC. The CDC advises that "Patients have had symptoms generally starting from 1 to 4 weeks after their injection. Not all patients who received the medicine will become sick. Symptoms that should prompt patients to seek medical care include: fever, new or worsening headache, neck stiffness, sensitivity to light, new weakness or numbness, increasing pain, redness or swelling of the injection site." Our experienced drug recall attorneys would be glad to discuss your potential claim with you from our Eastern NC or Raleigh offices or contact us through our website: O'Malley Tunstall.
Joe Tunstall, the head of our personal injury department, had one of his recent settlements reported in North Carolina Lawyers' Weekly. The settlement was for one of our wonderful clients severely injured in an automobile collision who recovered $879,000.00. Although we have had wonderful results over the years for many clients, always remember that every case is different and results of one case are not comparable to another. Please visit our web page for additional information regarding automobile accident results.
Etheridge v. Astrue, 4:11-cv-93 The firm appealed the denial of benefits by the Social Security Administration to Federal District Court. The Plaintiff suffered severe physical injuries and psychological trauma after a motorcycle accident. Social Security found that the Plaintiff could do light work and denied disability benefits. Federal District court found that substantial evidence supported that the Plaintiff continued to suffer severe physical and psychological problems as a result of the accident. The court recognized that the Plaintiff continued to suffer chronic pain that required powerful prescription medication to control the pain. Plaintiff also continues to experience anxiety and depression. The Plaintiff's treating doctor also found that the Plaintiff could not return to work as a result of physical and psychological problems stemming form the motorcycle accident. Based on the records as a whole, the court found that substantial evidence supported the Plaintiff's claim for disability. The denial of benefits was overturned. The court ordered Social Security to award benefits. To learn more about our firm please visit our web page O'Malley Tunstall
Often people first call our office out of concern over payment for large medical expenses as a result of an automobile collision that was not their fault. The law in North Carolina after the passage of HB542 and SB 586 has changed and only a portion of any bill, that amount that is neccessary to satisfy a medical bill, is admissible to prove evidence of medical expenses. Rule 414 Evidence of medical expenses. Evidence offered to prove past medical expenses shall be limited to evidence of the amounts actually paid to satisfy the bills that have been satisfied, regardless of the source of payment, and evidence of the amounts actually necessary to satisfy the bills that have been incurred but not yet satisfied. In the real world, many clients debate whether or not to use their health insurance to pay their medical bills after an injury. They don't want to use the insurance because it was not their fault, they are afraid of higher premiums and don't want to have the hassle of filing the insurance. Often, many hospitals take that decision away from the patient by refusing to bill the health insurance regardless of whether the patient would like it billed or whether the patient has already paid for health insurance that should pay the bill. Many insurance companies, such as Medicare, are secondary payors. That means they pay only if no one else pays. However, even Medicare states that when a bill is left over 120 days it shall become primary and pay. In these situations, insurance such as Medicare of the State Health Plan is entitled to obtain reimbursement for all the bills paid by them by the third party at the end of the case. Regardless of the reimbursement provisions (called subrogation) many hosptials take the decision away from the injured party and refuse to bill the person's health insurance hoping for a greater recovery from the at fault party in the collision. However, the hospital doesn't take the risk of the patient recovering the amount from the at fault person's insurance, instead they often make claims against and sue the patient for the unpaid bill, even though they could have accepted the insurance. The Charlotte Observer has recently written a series of articles on these not-for-profit hospitals suing uninsured persons for their unpaid medical expenses. Articles. Another article by the Charlotte Observer even references a veteran with tri-care insurance whom they sued because they could not properly bill the insurance. Article 2. In another article Duke University failed to properly code an insurance bill and hired a collection agency to hound and call repediatly a couple who had proper insurance. Article 3. Forbes Magazine has chosen to call this the Tort-Reform for Hospitals. In their article they describe that not-for-profit hospitals are obtaining significant benefit from directly suing their patients rather than working with the insurance companies or using low paying health insurance such as Medicaid. Our clients, and many other persons injured through no fault of their own should worry. Just because you have been financially stable and smart, it will not prevent
O'Malley Tunstall, PLLC is a Gold Sponsor of the American Cancer Society's 16th Annual Relay For Life Event in Edgecombe County to be held on May 4th and 5th, 2012 at the Tarboro High School football stadium. Relay For Life provides vital funding for the American Cancer Society to fund support for cancer survivors and their caregivers, education and awareness about the causes and effects of cancer, funding for scholarships, and funding for research programs. Last year's Relay For Life event raised $203,000 and the goal for this year is $216,500.00. This is a great event and needs all of our support to reach their goal. This year O'Malley Tunstall, PLLC will be sponsoring the luminaries that will be on the visitor side bleachers that spell RELAY FOR LIFE at the Friday night luminary ceremony starting at 10pm. If you are interested in supporting, click Edgecombe County Relay For Life: or for MORE INFORMATION Join us in the fight Against Cancer!!
Most people are aware there is a requirement that to have an automobile in North Carolina you must carry at least minimum liability limits. The North Carolina Liability Insurance Requirements for Private Passenger Vehicles requires to meet the required minimum limits coverage that you must have at least the following amount of insurance protection: $30,000 of coverage for injuries or death involving one person in a single accident. $60,000 of coverage for injuries or deaths involving two or more people in a single accident. $25,000 of property damage coverage. This minimum liability coverage comes into play when you are the at fault driver in a motor vehicle collision in which there is bodily injury or property damage. With medical bills for a simple Emergency Room in the range of $1,500 to over $2,000.00 on average depending on the condition the $30,000.00 limit an be quickly exhausted. Many people also carry medical payment coverage. Medical payment coverage (med pay) is no fault insurance covering the owners or passengers in a vehicle regardless of fault reimbursing medical expenses and lost wages. It is often some of the cheapest and most useful insurance coverage and can be typically sold in amounts from $500.00 to $25,000.00. Higher amounts are sold by some companies. Joe Tunstall describes automobile insurance from an attorneys prospective. In North Carolina drivers and owners of vehicles are also required to carry uninsured motorist coverage. N.C.G.S. 20-279. Uninsured motorist coverage provides insurance when the at fault driver is driving a motor vehicle without current liability insurance. The limits for uninsured motorist coverage range from North Carolina minimum limits of $30,000.00 per person to $1million. Of course the price is dependent upon amount of coverage purchased. In case of a serious injury where the other person carries some amount less than the amount to reimburse for the damages, you can purchase underinsured motorist coverage. N.C.G.S. 20-279.21(b)(4). Underinsured motorist coverage is typically some amount between $50,000.00 and $1 million in coverage. Undersinsured motorist coverage is paid when the injury is greater than the amount of the defendants liability coverage and you have purchased an amount of coverage greater than the defendant's insurance coverage.
The New Englad Journal of Medicine, one of the most widely read medical journals, had two interesting artilces 1 and 2 this week on heart device failures even after Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval. The first article is particularly troubling as the Supreme Court ruled that a plaintiff may not sue under state law to challenge the safety or effectiveness of a medical device to which the FDA has given "premarket approval." Riegel v. Medtronic, Inc., 2008 WL 440744 (Feb. 20, 2008). The premarket approval type of FDA approval--which reflects the agency's determination that the product is reasonably safe and effective for human use--establishes certain federal requirements that preempt state law remedies, including common-law claims for strict products liability, breach of warranty, and negligent design. This decision, when it first came out in 2008, represented a significant victory for medical device manufacturers, protecting them from the risk of state court damage awards for devices that have been duly approved by the FDA. In the article, Riata and Riata ST implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) leads (St. Jude Medical), which are implanted in approximately 79,000 patients in the United States were discussed as having failure such that the leads came out of their protective coating and were only noticable upon x-ray or after study following an adverse event. The scary implication of the article is that the drug device manufactorer has little to no incentive to monitor the adverse effects post FDA approval. In fact, the postmarketing surveillance system put in effect by the FDA is without backbone or ability to fully protect patients. As the Medtronic Sprint Fidelis lead involving 268,000 patients who received leads that had the potential to fracture, have finally been resolved via litigation, it seems that once again only through litigation will the drug device manufacturer have to protect its patients who are the most vulnerable... only the Supreme Court in Riegel v. Medtronic has hampered the ability of the attorneys who can get justice from protecting those in need. Its time to recognize that our American system of government with the proper checks and balances, which includes an active judiciary, be given its proper due as the best system of government in the world and our Supreme Court should take into consideration that self regulation by an industry without proper judicial oversight is merely a pipedream.
Whether you must hand over to the defense lawyer your medical records unrelated to the injury you sustained in this accident is often a case specific decision. In fact, a case by case determination is the way the North Carolina Supreme Court decided this issue should be handled. In most cases the physician-patient privilege prevents disclosure of medicals records to others. The physician-patient privilege is rooted in public policy to "encourage the patient to fully disclose pertinent information to a physician so that proper treatment may be prescribed, to protect the patient against public disclosure of socially stigmatized diseases, and to shield the patient from self-incrimination." Crist v. Moffatt, 326 N.C. 326, 389 S.E. 2d 41(1990). Our Supreme Court has declined to hold "the physician-patient privilege is waived whenever a patient files a lawsuit in which his physical condition is an element of the claim or defense." Cates v. Wilson, 321 N.C. 1, 361 S.E. 2d 734 (1987). Instead, our Courts have held that the question of waiver is "to be determined largely by the facts and circumstances of the particular case on trial." Cates v. Wilson, 321 N.C. 1, 361 S.E. 2d 734 (1987). The physician-patient privilege is statutory. N.C.G.S. 8-53. This statute protects the information given to your physician unless that information is "necessary to a proper administration of justice." N.C.G.S. 8-53. In North Carolina the physician-patient privilege exists "so long as the patient insists on it" and a trial court has not compelled disclosure to necessitate "a proper administration of justice." Cates v. Wilson, 321 N.C. 1, 361 S.E. 2d 734 (1987), Crist v. Moffatt, 326 N.C. 326, 389 S.E. 2d 41(1990), N.C.G.S. 8-53. Therefore often a hearing must take place when a defendant wants prior medical records to determine whether it is reasonable to waive the privilege protecting them. If a Judge determines that the defendant's interest in obtaining the records is "necessary to a proper administration of justice" then the records must be turned over regardless of the thoughts of the injured party. Often there is a separate, yet equally important issue, who is going to pay to order and obtain these prior records for the Plaintiff's physicians? As the legislature and the courts have recently established that the costs to be awarded to the winning or prevailing party are limited to N.C.G.S. 7A-305(d)(10) and (11) and as the statutory costs of procuring medical records are clearly outlined in N.C.G.S. 90-411; these costs are not included in the recoverable costs statute. Therefore, a Plaintiff may have to pay to obtain their own prior records and then may not be reimbursed even if they win the case. This result seems wrong - the defense should be required to pay the statutory costs of obtaining the medical records pursuant to N.C.G.S. 90-411. As there is a clearly denominated amount to obtain the medical records that the legislature has stated is reasonable in nature N.C.G.S. 90-411 then it is only reasonable that the Defendants pay to obtain said records as this cost should be added to N.C.G.S. 7A-305(d)(10) and (11).
Pradaxa is an anti-coagulant, or blood thinner, used to prevent blood clots and strokes in people suffering from an irregular heart beat known as atrial fibrillation. With atrial fibrillation, patients have a higher risk of forming blood clots which can travel through the body and cause strokes. Pradaxa is used to lower the chance of blood clots forming.
Pradaxa is manufactured by German drugmaker Boehringer and just received FDA approval last year. Unfortunately, severe problems with the drug are already being reported as Pradaxa is proving to cause excessive internal bleeding. The FDA is currently investigating Pradaxa.