Former Branch Manager Gets Job Back, Along with Back Pay

The United States Department of Labor has issued an order requiring banking giant Wells Fargo to rehire a former branch manager and to pay her $577,500 in back wages, saying the company wrongfully terminated the woman in retaliation for reporting misconduct by the bank and its corporate officers. The woman, who worked in a branch in Pomona, California, had reported her concerns that private bankers at Wells Fargo were opening new accounts for customers and setting them up with new bank products without the customers’ knowledge or consent, and without providing statutorily mandated disclosures. Representatives of the bank subsequently admitted that the practice was part of a sales initiative.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), there was sufficient evidence to indicate that the Pomona woman was fired primarily or solely because of her actions as a whistleblower. Federal law makes it illegal for banks to take any type of retaliatory action when employees report wrongful or suspicious conduct.

OSHA ordered Wells Fargo to give the woman her job back and said the company must clear her personnel file of any disparaging or negative reports or comments tied to the fake account scandal. The bank must pay her back wages, as well as compensatory damages and attorney fees, and must post notices advising bank employees of their rights under whistleblower protection laws.

Contact Our Office

At Shelton Davis, LLC, we offer experienced legal counsel to anyone who has been subjected to retaliatory or wrongful conduct because of their role as a whistleblower. We handle most cases on a contingent fee basis. You won’t pay attorney fees unless we get compensation for your losses.

First Circuit Reverses District Court Dismissal of Doctors’ Claim

federal whistleblower claim, filed by two British orthopedic surgeons, has been reinstated by the 1st United States Circuit Court of Appeals. The lawsuit sought damages under federal False Claims Act, alleging that DePuy and its parent company, Johnson and Johnson, sold defective hip implant to doctors who then sought reimbursement from the federal government through Medicaid and other programs.

The trial judge had thrown out the lawsuit, concluding that the litigants had failed to show a specific instance of fraud. The Circuit Court disagreed with that ruling, saying that the plaintiffs had shown that it was “statistically certain” that DePuy had engaged in conduct that led third parties to submit false claims to the U.S. government. Because of that “statistical certainty,” the court found that the evidence need not be any more specific.

As part of their argument at trial, plaintiffs’ attorneys demonstrated, through statistical analysis, that more than half of the hip replacement devices manufactured by DePuy did not meet FDA requirements. They contended that such a failure rate (allegedly known by DePuy) made it statistically inevitable that the U.S. government would ultimately reimburse a doctor for a defective hip replacement product.

The plaintiffs had also alleged that DePuy had made intentional misrepresentations to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, but the Circuit Court did not allow that claim to be reinstated.

Contact Our Office

At Shelton Davis, LLC, we offer experienced legal counsel to anyone with a potential claim for injury suffered because of a DePuy Pinnacle hip implant. Contact our office online or call our office at (601) 228-3166. We handle most cases on a contingent fee basis. You won’t pay attorney fees unless we get compensation for your losses.

The state of Mississippi has joined the city of Chicago, the state of Ohio and counties in California and New York, filing a lawsuit against manufacturers of opioid pharmaceutical products, contending that drug manufacturers intentionally and systematically deceived the public as to known health risks, and simultaneously overstated their benefits.

According to statistics gathered by attorneys for the plaintiffs, nearly 20,000 people died in the United States in 2014 as a result of opioid overdoses. They say there is an epidemic of addiction tied to such drugs as OxyContin, Opana,Percodan, Vicodin and Percocet, which they say act much like heroin (also an opioid). According to the lawsuit filed in Hinds County, Mississippi, pharmaceutical companies have spent millions of dollars to convince doctors, researchers and legislators—at both the state and federal levels—that millions of people suffer from chronic pain, which they say can be effectively treated by a variety of opioids. They further allege that medical science has long held a contrary point of view, understanding the addictive and debilitating effects of opioids.

Some attorneys worry that, because opioids have been subject to FDA regulation—unlike tobacco—it will be far more difficult to get a jury to agree that drug manufacturers behaved improperly. The Mississippi lawsuit, however, contends that drug manufactures engaged in intentional and well-orchestrated efforts to mislead the FDA, providing false information that indicated that opioids were less dangerous or addictive than more reliable studies showed they were. According to one report, published by the Center for Public Integrity, opioid manufacturers spent nearly $900 million to lobby state and federal legislators over the past ten years, while organizations supporting more regulation of opioids spent approximately $4 million.

Contact Our Office

At Shelton Davis, LLC, we offer experienced legal counsel to anyone who has suffered a personal injury because of a dangerous or defective product, including a prescription drug. We handle most cases on a contingent fee basis so you won’t pay attorney fees unless we get compensation for your losses. Call our offices today

Johnson & Johnson Seeks to Overturn $498 Million Verdict

Pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson has appealed the verdict of a Texas jury awarding five plaintiffs $498 million in a lawsuit alleging injury caused by DePuy’s metal-on-metal hip implants. All five litigants were Texas residents. The original verdict in case, the second of ten “bellwether” cases involving the DePuy Pinnacle implant, included approximately $140 million in compensatory damages and around $360 million in punitive damages. The trial judge subsequently reduced the damage award to about $150 million. Johnson & Johnson, currently facing approximately 9,000 similar claims based on the injuries caused by the Pinnacle hip implant, has appealed the verdict.

A bellwether trial if an increasing common practice in certain types of personal injury claims, particularly where the issues are highly contested and the potential number of claimants is high. Under the bellwether approach, a certain number of similar claims are selected as test cases and fully prepared for trial. The resulting verdicts or settlements in those cases are then used to inform how attorneys will proceed with the remaining claims.

In the DePuy Pinnacle hip implant controversy, three of the ten selected “bellwether” cases have gone to trial. In the first, Johnson & Johnson was found not liable by a Montana jury. The $498 million verdict came in May, 2016, in the second bellwether case. A third bellwether case saw a Dallas jury award six plaintiffs just over $1 billion in December, 2016, though the judge in that case subsequently reduced the damage award to approximately $500 million.

Sisters Reported Abuse of Federal Flood Program by State Farm

Two sisters from Mississippi are headed to the U.S. Supreme Court to protect a verdict they won against insurance giant State Farm. Cori and Kerri Rigsby, who both worked as claims adjusters for the company in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, successfully demonstrated at trial that State Farm assessed a policy limit of $250,000 to the federal flood program while paying far less to settle a claim for one of its policyholders. It also appeared that State Farm sought reimbursement from the federal flood insurance program for losses that were caused by wind. The trial court assessed damages of $750,000, with 15% of the proceeds to be paid to the Rigsby sisters.

Attorneys for State Farm are not challenging the determination made by the court, but are asking that the whistleblower action be dismissed because attorneys for the Rigsbys told the media about the lawsuit while the lawsuit was still under seal. In a federal whistleblower action, the details of the lawsuit are under seal and not to be disclosed until federal prosecutors have been able to investigate and determine whether they want to handle the prosecution.

Though attorneys for the Rigsby sisters told the media about the lawsuit while it was still under seal, the sisters waited until the government opted not to get involved before they proceeded with their legal action. Attorneys for State Farm argued at trial that the wrongful disclosure had harmed State Farm and asked that the lawsuit be dismissed. The trial judge disagreed, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit affirmed the trial court decision.

When the case is argued before the U.S. Supreme Court, the nation’s highest court will look only at the issue of whether the early disclosure compromised the case.

Report Says Office of the Comptroller of the Currency Failed to Follow Up on Allegations

According to a report published last month, the federal agency responsible for monitoring and regulating the nation’s biggest banks failed to take appropriate steps in response to more than 700 Whistleblower complaints filed by employees of Wells Fargo. The whistleblower complaints were tied to a massive scheme whereby Wells Fargo employees opened accounts for the bank’s customers without the customers’ knowledge or consent. An investigation showed that upper level management had put pressure on branches and branch managers to engage in “cross-selling,” a practice where customers were pressured to buy additional products from the bank. Investigators say that many of the branches were evaluated in significant part by the number of accounts they had open with customers.

The OCC admitted that it had met with bank executives in 2010, and asked about the whistleblower complaints. Officials acknowledge, however, that the OCC did no follow up on the matter. The report also indicates that a number of Wells Fargo employees were wrongfully terminated after they asked questions or raised concerns about the practice, which ultimately led to the creation of more than two million bogus accounts.

AT&T Also Named as Defendant

It appears that it’s not just Samsung smartphone products that pose exploding battery risks. A number of iPhone users have reported injury or property damage when the iPhone 6 has either exploded or burst into flames. A woman in Palm Harbor reported in January, 2017 that her iPhone 6 Plus exploded and caught on fire while charging on a night stand beside her bed. She told authorities that the force of the explosion shattered the glass face of the phone and ejected the display from the housing. The conflagration also damaged her comforter, pillow case and curtains.

In California earlier this month, a man filed suit against Apple and AT&T, alleging that he suffered significant personal injury when his iPhone 6 exploded. He had the phone in his pants pocket at the time and it burned a hole in his pants and also caused burns to his leg.

A mobile phone repair shop in England has also posted a video online, ostensible showing an iPhone 6 exploding in the shop. The shop owner said that the phone’s owner was holding the phone in his hand, applying an ordinary amount of pressure, when the phone began smoking, and the battery failed and exploded, blowing the screen off the phone.

Apple has been aware of allegations that some iPhones have spontaneously caught fire. Last year, the company contended that “external physical damage” was the cause of similar events in China, some of which were videotaped and published online.

Protecting Your Health and Your Rights

You’ve just been involved in a motor vehicle accident, caused by the carelessness or negligence of another person. You’ll have the right to file a lawsuit to recover for any physical injuries, as well as property damage. What steps should you take to ensure that your rights are fully protected?

Get the Medical Care You Need

The most important thing, in the immediate aftermath of a car accident, is to ensure that you get the care you need as soon as possible. First, the sooner you get care, the better your chances of a full recovery. But it’s also important to protect your legal rights. If your injuries seem minor and you wait a few days or a week, you may be providing ammunition for a defense attorney to argue that your injuries were not that serious, or that your injuries were caused by some intervening event.

If you don’t think you can move under your own power, don’t try to move. This isn’t the time to be strong or be a hero—it’s the time to take every precaution to minimize risk of further injury. Wait until emergency medical technicians arrive and let them do their job. If they believe you need to go to the hospital in an ambulance, let them take you there. When you are treated, be sure to advise doctors and nurses of any pain, discomfort or trauma you experienced. Don’t ignore the minor discomfort in your neck or back because of your broken leg. The back or neck trauma may cause you more problems in the long run. Also, ask that everything be documented in writing.

Gather Information

If you are able to, try to get contact information from the other driver and from all witnesses. This includes name, address, phone number, e-mail address and auto insurance provider (for any other drivers involved in the accident). In addition, take pictures of everything, from the damage to all vehicles to any injuries sustained, from the weather conditions to any defects in the roadway—potholes, loose gravel, missing or damages road signs. The phone on your camera is sufficient.

Contact an Attorney

The sooner you retain legal counsel, the better chance you’ll have of fully protecting your rights. You may need legal counsel to ensure that your own insurance company honors its agreement. You’ll definitely want a lawyer to represent you in any dealings with other parties to the accident.

“Whistleblower” Actions under the False Claims Act

Do you know someone who’s been cheating on his taxes? A person who’s been wrongfully collecting Medicaid or Medicare or illegally obtaining other government benefits? If so, you may be able to file a form of whistleblower action known as a “qui tam” lawsuit, whereby you’ll be entitled to a portion of whatever the government recovers from the person committing the fraud. Here’s how it works.

Under the federal False Claims Act, enacted in 1863 (also known as the “Lincoln Law”), a citizen who successfully reports fraud on the government may be entitled to anywhere from 15% to 25% of any amounts recovered from the wrongdoer. The law allows the private citizen, known under the law as a “relator,” to essentially bring a lawsuit on behalf of the United States. There is no requirement under the False Claims Act that the relator have actually suffered any direct personal harm because of the actions of the person perpetrating the fraud. The relator must have information that proves that the wrongdoer intentionally or knowingly made false claims to the government. Furthermore, the information must not be in the public domain.

The law also provides for attorney’s fees for any successful lawsuit and prohibits a private citizen from bringing a qui tam action without an attorney. Once the qui tam action has been filed by the relator’s counsel, the federal government may opt to intervene and prosecute the lawsuit. The defendant, however, is prohibited by law from disclosing any information related to the qui tam action, including the mere fact that a qui tam action has been filed.

Negligent Design | Negligent Manufacturing | Negligent Marketing

When you buy a product at a retail or wholesale outlet, you expect that the manufacturer has conducted reasonable testing to ensure that the product does not pose an unreasonable risk of injury. Unfortunately, with the intense competition to be the first to market, many products are made available to consumers without a clear understanding of the dangers associated with them. When you have been hurt while using a product or because of exposure to a product, you may have a right to file suit to recover compensation for any losses sustained. Here are the different legal theories under which you can file a product liability claim.

Negligent Design

A claim based on negligent design alleges that, when the company conceived of the product, designers did not reasonably consider the potential safety risks the design would pose. Under such a claim, the quality of the manufacturing is irrelevant. This theory holds that, regardless of how well the product was made, its design was flawed, which should have been recognized by a reasonable evaluation of the product. For example, if you market a utility knife that does not retract, it’s probably reasonable to expect that the design would cause a lot of people to put the knife in their pockets and sustain injury as a result.

Negligent Manufacture

This theory of product liability alleges some carelessness or deficiency in the manufacturing process. Whether or not the product was carelessly designed is unimportant. An allegation of negligent manufacture may involve the use of substandard materials, carelessness in the actual assembly of the product, or a lack of supervision to ensure that the product was safely constructed.

Negligent Marketing

An allegation of negligent marketing of a product contends that the seller/manufacturer did not adequately warn the potential user of known risks associated with the use of the product. It typically also extends to any uses that should reasonably have been expected, as well as any known dangers that the marketer should have been reasonably aware of.

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