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OK Supreme Court: Special Protections For Oil and Gas Industry Unconstitutional

Oklahoma oil and gas workers and their families recently welcomed news that the state’s highest court struck down a rule exempting oil and natural gas companies from being sued when their workers are injured or killed on the job. On Jan. 23, the Oklahoma Supreme Court found the part of the state’s workers compensation law giving oil and natural gas companies special immunity from the law was unconstitutional. The unanimous decision with one recusal resolves a lawsuit brought by the daughter of a worker who was killed in a well site accident in Crescent, Oklahoma, in 2013. David Chambers worked ... Read More

Alabama sues OxyContin maker for fueling opioid epidemic

Major opioid manufacturer Purdue Pharma L.P., was hit with a lawsuit by Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall on behalf of the State of Alabama alleging the drug company is fueling the nation’s opioid epidemic, causing unnecessary deaths as well as millions of dollars in economic damages to the state. “Alabama’s opioid crisis has been, and is still being, fueled by pharmaceutical manufacturer Purdue, which has deceptively and illegally marketed opioids in order to generate billions of dollars in sales,” said Beasley Allen lawyer Rhon E. Jones, head of the firm’s Toxic Torts Section and acting Deputy Attorney General in this ... Read More

DOJ In Damage Control After DC Lawyer Hawked Whistleblower Lawsuits

A promising Washington D.C. lawyer who admittedly stole and peddled sealed whistleblower lawsuits from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), his former employer, is now cooperating with federal officials to help them prevent future False Claims Acts (FCA) cases and their relators from being jeopardized. Jeffrey Wertkin, a 41-year-old partner at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, was busted in the lobby of a Cupertino, California, hotel last year trying to sell a sealed whistleblower complaint to an undercover FBI agent. The lawsuit was one of several False Claims Act complaints he illegally removed from the Justice Department before he ... Read More

Benzene Water Contamination Plagues Fire-Damaged California City

Santa Rosa, California, city officials say their “top priority” is finding the source of benzene that is poisoning the water supply in the Fountaingrove neighborhood after wildfires swept through the area and destroyed hundreds of homes. The Santa Rosa Press Democrat reports that the city’s water authorities have spent several weeks working with regulators and experts to understand why benzene, a toxic hydrocarbon commonly found in fossil fuels and plastics, is contaminating the water supply. According to the Press Democrat, those trying to understand the problem suspect that the heat of the wildfires, which destroyed about 3,000 homes in the ... Read More

Family of Worker Killed in Cesspool Collapse Seeks $50 Million

The family of a Long Island man who was killed after being knocked into a cesspool under construction last May is seeking $50 million in damages, alleging employers responsible for the project overlooked critical safety measures. Edward Sinnott, 59, of Huntington, Long Island, was killed when the edge of a cesspool pit he and other workers were excavating collapsed. According to Long Island’s Newsday, Mr. Sinnott fell into the pit and suffocated under mounds of dirt that fell on top of him. Emergency crews worked to free Mr. Sinnott from the pit but couldn’t pull him from the trench in ... Read More

Jury Awards Whistleblower $1 Million in Retaliation Case

A federal jury in Portland, Oregon awarded a former whistleblower $1 million in a retaliation case against a now out-of-business telemarketing firm. According to The Oregonian, Max Zweizig of New Jersey worked as the information technology director for the Oregon-based Northwest Direct Teleservices Inc. from 2001-2003. In 2004, he filed a lawsuit against Timothy Rote, the company’s owner and president, alleging he was fired in retaliation for alerting law enforcement authorities that the company was overbilling some clients. Mr. Zweizig’s whistleblower complaint originally went to arbitration and he was awarded $75,375 for lost wages and damages, but the judgement hasn’t ... Read More

DOE Whistleblower Seeking Protection From Alleged Retaliation

A U.S. Department of Energy photographer is seeking whistleblower protection after the agency put him on administrative leave for sharing images he took that may document an improper relationship between Energy Secretary Rick Perry and coal mining mogul Robert Murray. According to The Washington Post, Simon Edelman, the DOE’s chief creative officer, filed a whistleblower complaint with his agency’s Office of Inspector General, which is charged with investigating reports of fraud, waste, and abuse within the department. Such complaints would typically come from whistleblowers within the DOE or whistleblowers with a close working relationship with the agency, such as a ... Read More

VW Emissions Settlements Don’t Affect County Claims, Plaintiffs Argue

Settlements resolving claims over Volkswagen’s (VW) emissions cheat and the federal Clean Air Act do not bar air pollution complaints lodged by Hillsborough County, Florida, and Salt Lake County, Utah, lawyers for the counties told a California federal court. Volkswagen is pressing the U.S. District Court in San Francisco to toss the counties’ claims that they are entitled to compensation for pollution caused by VW’s emissions cheat under state laws. Those complaints are currently included in multidistrict litigation (MDL) consolidated in the California court. In 2014, West Virginia University researchers and other members of the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) discovered ... Read More

Texas Man Injured By E-Cigarette Blast Files Lawsuit

A Houston man whose e-cigarette exploded in his face a year ago, leaving him with serious facial and bodily injuries, has filed a product liability lawsuit against the manufacturer of the lithium-ion battery that allegedly caused the blast and the e-cig shop that sold it to him. According to the SE TexasRecord, plaintiff Dunta White, a resident of Harris County, claims that H Town Vape Inc., the shop where he bought the allegedly defective lithium-ion battery, and LG Chem Ltd., the Korean electronics company that made the battery, are liable for the injuries that the exploding e-cigarette caused. When the ... Read More

California Whistleblower Case Against BP Recovers $102 Million

BP has agreed to pay $102 million to settle a whistleblower lawsuit brought under California’s False Claims Act alleging the oil company intentionally overcharged the state for natural gas for more than a decade. The law firm representing the whistleblower in the case said it is the largest whistleblower settlement involving an oil company in California’s history, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. The case started on July 3, 2012, when former BP employee Chris Schroen filed a whistleblower complaint with the state alleging BP was knowingly quoting and charging the state gas prices above the contractual price cap. The ... Read More