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Individual Scores $28 Million Victory Against Big Pharmaceuticals

Posted on Monday, September 24th, 2012 at 6:19 am    

In the recent case of Kendall vs Wyeth, Inc., the Pennsylvania Superior Court upheld a jury award imposing punitive damages of $28 million against defendants Wyeth, Inc. and Upjohn. This award resulted from a lawsuit brought by plaintiff Donna Kendall against Wyeth and Upjohn as a result of getting breast cancer after taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT) drugs manufactured by Wyeth and Upjohn. In her lawsuit, Donna Kendall alleged that the defendants were negligent in failing to warn her prescribing physicians of the significant risk of breast cancer arising from the ingestion of certain hormone replacement therapy (HRT) drugs manufactured by the defendants.

Following a trial, the jury awarded Donna Kendall $6.3 million in damages to compensate her for her injuries and $28 million in punitive damages. Pennsylvania law allows an award of punitive damages to punish defendants when their conduct has been legally determined to be “outrageous”.

Although, the trial court initially held that the award of $28 million in punitive damages was excessive and reduced this award to $1 million, on appeal the Pennsylvania Superior Court disagreed reinstating the $28 million award.

According to the summary of this case reported in the Pennsylvania Law Weekly, Upjohn failed to conduct any studies to explore the link between HRT drugs and breast cancer and continued to promote such drugs in violation of FDA guidelines. Furthermore, the summary notes that per the court the record indicated that Wyeth’s conduct was ‘reprehensible’ and fully merited the imposition of punitive damages.

In upholding the jury’s award of $28 million in punitive damages, the court noted that the award, “while large, correlated with the enormity of the defendants wrong, clear liability, and the devastating impact on the plaintiff.” According to the summary, the court noted that the evidence strongly suggested that Appellants (Wyeth and Upjohn) elevated profits above public health and women’s health and chose not to conduct adequate studies and willfully ignored or downplayed evidence that suggested a link between HRT drugs and breast cancer.

While such large punitive damage awards are indeed rare, this case does illustrate the ability of an individual to hold large corporations responsible for their actions.

Talking Cars – The Next Step in Automotive Safety?

Posted on Monday, September 10th, 2012 at 8:19 pm    

If you think cars talking to cars is just a fantasy, think again. According to a recent A.P. article by Joan Lowry a remarkable new safety system which relies upon cars communicating (talking) with one another is being tested by the Federal Government in Ann Arbor, Michigan this summer. This technology is called vehicle to vehicle communication or V2V.

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) along with eight automakers has been working on V2V technology for about a decade.  V2V uses wireless technology to allow vehicles to communicate with one another.

In a recent demonstration to illustrate just how this technology works.  A Ford Taurus was seconds away from cruising through an intersection when suddenly a row of red lights pulsed on the lower windshield and a warning blared that another car was approaching fast on the cross street.  Braking quickly, the driver stopped just as the second car, previously unseen behind a large parked truck, barreled through a red light and across the Ford’s path.

In the more advanced version of V2V systems, the system can apply the vehicles brakes when the driver reacts too slowly. In addition to warning drivers of vehicles running red lights or stop signs, “connected” cars can let drivers know if they don’t have time to make a left turn because of oncoming traffic, if it is safe to pass on two lane highways, and when they are at the risk of rear ending a slower moving car.

David Strickland, the Administrator of NHTSA states that V2V “is our next evolutionary step…to make sure the crash never happens in the first place, which is, frankly, the best safety scenario we can hope for.”

But as Joan Lowry points out, the safety benefits of V2V technology would not be fully realized until there is a critical mass of cars on the road that can talk to each other which may take 10 years.

Although some current safety technologies, such as forward collision warning systems, alert drivers to impending crashes and automatically brake if the driver doesn’t brake are similar to V2V, most of the current technologies rely on radar or laser sensors to see other nearby vehicles.  Thus, unlike V2V technology, they can’t warn drivers about cars they can’t see, such as the car that ran the red light in the intersection demonstration.

To read the full article by Joan Lowry of the Associated Press go to http://lancasteronline.com/article/ap/664774-cars-avoid-crashes-by-talking-to-each-other.htm