Latest News

Giant oil spill encroaches on more California beaches

California oil spill - image by NBC4 Los Angeles via Twitter

Strong westerly winds threaten to push the giant Plains All American oil spill near Santa Barbara, Calif., onto more of the state’s most naturally preserved beaches, the National Weather Service warned, as hundreds of emergency cleanup workers are being mobilized and trained to clean shores already awash in thick black sludge. Most of the people directly affected by the May 19 spill, the worst oil spill to hit Southern California in decades, have been beach goers and campers who have been forced to leave El Refugio and El Capitan beaches and coastal parks. But on Tuesday, new reports said the ... Read More

Statin therapy may be unnecessary, cause side effects in elderly

Senior African American couple

People older than 75 who have high cholesterol but no evidence of heart disease may not benefit from statin therapy, according to Sanford cardiologist Dr. Joshua Wynne, who writes the Health Matters column in the Grand Forks Herald. “The problem is that we have very little clinical evidence that statins are beneficial for primary prevention in people … who are over the age of 75. Not only that, but there is some evidence to suggest a higher cholesterol level in the elderly may be associated with less risk of complications,” he writes. Statins, such as the widely prescribed Lipitor, are used ... Read More

Second Circuit clarifies FLSA provisions by ruling against employer retaliation

whistleblower-4

Although employee retaliation protections in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) were addressed in 2011 by the Supreme Court case Kasten v. Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics Corporation, it was never made clear whether the employee complaints must be “filed” with a federal agency in order to be protected,  or if oral complaints made directly to the employer sufficed. However, a recent ruling in Greathouse v. JHS Security, Inc by the Second Circuit solved the dilemma by clarifying that even complaints voiced solely to the employer are protected by the FLSA and cannot be retaliated against. In this case specifically, an employee identified in litigation as ... Read More

Whistleblowers help Medicare recover $7.9 million from Medco

whistleblower-5

Two former employees of drug conglomerate AstraZeneca will be awarded as whistleblowers for helping the U.S. government recover $7.9 million from Medco Health Solutions with a whistleblower case alleging the pharmacy benefit management company engaged in an illegal kickback scheme. The share of the settlement that Paul DiMattia and F. Folger Tuggle will receive has not yet been determined, but under the terms of the U.S. False Claims Act, which lays out the rules for whistleblowers in false claims cases, the men could receive a total of up to $2.7 million. The whistleblowers alleged that Medco solicited payment from AstraZeneca ... Read More

Chinese drywall threatens Miami luxury condo tower

china

A Miami luxury condo development has linked ongoing problems some that residents are experiencing with the presence in nearly 30 of its units of defective Chinese drywall that emits toxic fumes. The 500 Brickell East condominium developers face costs of at least $3.3 million to have the Chinese drywall removed from already-occupied condo units and replaced. It’s a cost the developer will have to pay for up front rather than wait for the outcome of pending litigation in the matter, which could be years away. Drywall made in China was imported in massive quantities during the pre-recession building boom of ... Read More

BlueCross BlueShield CareFirst data breach puts roughly 1.1 million individuals at risk

data-breach

Cyber criminals have, once again, targeted the health insurance industry in yet another data breach, compromising nearly 1.1 million records of CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield current/former members. Carefirst, based in Baltimore, Md., is responsible for providing nearly 3.4 million Americans in Maryland, Northern Virginia and Washington D.C. with health insurance and services. While it is not believed the hackers had access to social security numbers, medical claims, or financial account information, CareFirst will still be offering two years of free credit monitoring, as well as identity theft protection to those included in the data breach. According to the investigation by cybersecurity ... Read More

ConAgra pays record criminal fine for contaminated peanut butter

peanut-butter

ConAgra has agreed to pay the U.S. government an $8 million criminal fine for violating the federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act when it distributed peanut butter contaminated with salmonella bacteria and caused a massive national outbreak of salmonella poisoning in 2006 and 2007. ConAgra’s fine is the largest criminal fine ever paid in a food safety case. The Omaha, Neb.,-based food company also agreed to forfeit assets worth $3.2 million as part of the settlement, bringing the total fines to $11.2 million. The criminal fines stem from shipments of peanut butter sold under the Peter Pan brand and various ... Read More

Merck shareholders lawsuit accuses Vioxx maker of securities fraud

vioxx pills

A multidistrict litigation involving Merck & Co. shareholders claiming they were misled about heart attack risks with the drug company’s painkiller Vioxx will move forward though one claim against the company was scaled back. U.S. District Judge Stanley Chesler denied a motion by Merck to dismiss the claims saying there was insufficient evidence that the company’s statements about Vioxx risks before study data from VIGOR was released on March 27, 2000, were made with wrongful intent that would establish a securities fraud violation. VIGOR (Vioxx Gastrointestinal Outcomes Research) was a study to gauge gastrointestinal effects of Vioxx compared to naproxen, ... Read More

Allegations of child abuse, retaliation in Iowa teacher’s whistleblower case

whistleblower-1

An Iowa special education associate who claims work conditions became hostile and intolerable after she reported the physical and psychological abuse of disabled students by fellow associates is seeking monetary damages in court, the Des Moines Register reports. Trial started Tuesday for Rhonda Thramer, a Des Moines-area special needs educator who filed a whistleblower lawsuit alleging she was harassed and ultimately forced to quit her job after she reported child abuse committed by a colleague to Akeny, Iowa, school leaders. Ms. Thramer started working as a full-time associate at Northview Middle School in November 2011, working with a class of ... Read More

$200 million settlement to compensate fungal meningitis victims

Syringe

A federal bankruptcy judge in Boston, Mass., announced he plans to approve a $200 million settlement agreement to compensate victims of a deadly fungal meningitis outbreak caused by contaminated steroid shots manufactured and distributed nationwide by the now-defunct New England Compounding Center (NECC). The fund will be used to cover the compounding pharmacy’s creditors as well as patients who received the shots and developed fungal infections including fungal meningitis. More than 98 percent of creditors voted on the plan and approved it unanimously. Victims are expected to begin receiving compensation by the end of 2015. More than 3,000 parties have ... Read More