Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Happy Birthday to the A Georgialawyer Blog

Made it. One year. Been so busy that I have not had time to reflect on it. We celebreated with King Cake here in the office and sharing of beads and other trinkets.

If you've thought about blogging but have not yet started, now is the time.

Oh by the way - to answer the most posed Question: Yes, those are my dogs. 2 of them, at least. 1 Yellow and 1 Black.

Lawyers: Does your Website have the Office tel. # on each Page?

I was in another office earlier today and went on the web to locate a colleague's telephone number. Found the site via Google, then when the first served link is up ... no telephone number on that page. No street address. No email contact.

There was a link to "Contact Us" of course, hidden half way down the page. Unfortunately I came in through a link served by Google ... no contact information, no telephone number on that page, and the contact us was poorly aligned as well.

This Firm is nationally regarded. Why it does not have its telephone number and address on each and every page is beyond me. Does your site meet that basic information requirement?

I may have to 'out' this Firm if it does not fix this problem.

Happy Mardi Gras

I watched coverage of the early risers walking (stumbling?) around New Orleans this morning. I still can't figure out why Mayor Ray Nagin was wearing a General's army uniform, perhaps he will explain it later. Props to Anderson Cooper who is in town there now, and has been for a few days.

I read that Monica Bay at The Common Scold was there. She concisely wrote this on 2.27:

"This is the most complex city I've ever experienced. It reminds me so very much of Rio, and in some ways, of 1963 Berlin. I would never dream of pretending that as a California-bred middle class white baby boomer I could even begin to completely understand the dynamics that shape it. But I do know that it is a rescilient, spirited city, a vibrant city; so passionate, and that it will survive."

-- Well said. You can read more by going to her blog.

Ernie the Attorney and I talked for a few on Saturday night. If you have not read his blog, spend some time there today or this week. It's here. I'm a regular reader, and if you love New Orleans like I do, a must read to catch up on the "goings on goin on" there (as they say in Alabama). He wrote today:

So, like birds that are impelled by unseen forces, Mardi Gras impels us to follow our own primitive migratory patterns. But we, of course, are more advanced than migratory animals in that we carry plastic cups filled with bloody mary mix.

For those that think Mardi Gras is all Bourbon Street and beads and 'flashing' you are wrong. It's family, some decadence, and fun for the kids. Pics like the one you see above do capture the essence of Mardi Gras in my humble opinion.

Anderson Cooper in his CNN blog wrote:

Bourbon Street, however, is not what Mardi Gras is really about. At heart, Mardi Gras is a family affair.

A few signs and floats skewered everyone ... no one was spared. One sign repeated often said" Fix Everything My Ass."

Another had this:

Happy Mardi Gras to all, and for those in New Orleans, hoist a bloody mary for me today.

Monday, February 27, 2006

New Orleans - Feb. 2006

Just returned from NOLA. Some thoughts:

The City-From the Quarter to the Garden District:

For those of you that do not think this city will come back: It’s going to come back. I spent a lot of time in certain areas – The Garden District, Uptown, Marigny, and the Warehouse District.

The Garden District: The boutiques, antique shops, bars and restaurants are open in and around the 2000 to 3500 blocks of Magazine Street. The college students, to me, are key to that area but many residents are out and about as well. Blue tarps, lots of them.

I visited Slim Goodies twice for breakfast- who can skip a place with a telephone number that is 891-EGGS? It did not disappoint.Also, my new friends at Big Fisherman also on Magazine helped me pick out Royal Reds (shrimp), Gumbo, and Boudin to bring back home.

The Warehouse District: Jumping. Great restaurant food and service at Tommy’s. Even Emeril’s across the street and The Brasserie seemed full and bustling. Bars were full, live music in many of them. That is particularly good to see because it means that the musicians are coming back.

Marigny: This is a neighborhood that is just east of the Quarter. Bars were full, and just around midnight I ducked into a bar and found … Uncle Lionel of the Treme Brass Band. Singing with the band, he had the place mesmerized. His voice sounds like a silk stocking drug across sandpaper. No cover, all locals. DBA and a few restaurants were open as well.

I stayed away from Bourbon Street because it’s just too much. Too many people, too rowdy, too noisy. The smell is gone though.

A few of the more .. ahem … “sobering” facts: Nearly 250,000 homes must be razed. That’s equal to the entire city of Nashville being knocked down. In St. Bernard Parish - which I toured with a contractor friend – 45,000 homes were inhabited pre-Katrina. This week it’s less than 100 with people in them. There were quite literally partially destroyed homes in the Street. Areas of New Orleans East have no power, no stoplights, no birds, no dogs, no people. Insurance claims remain unpaid, unprocessed, ignored.

What happens next for that city? As folks come back for events like JazzFest people will see that this City is one worth saving. If the U.S. can spend $350 billion in Iraq, surely a city that flies the U.S. flag merits our attention.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Next for Merck: Consolidated cases in New Jersey

Judge Higbee is set to hear two cases in one next week: The plaintiffs are Thomas Cona and John McDarby, who each allege their use of Vioxx for more than 18 months contributed to their respective heart attacks.

One took the drug for 25 months, the other for four years. The VIGOR study with its 18 month key ingestion period will certainly play a larger role than in previous trials.

More Bad News for the Ortho Evra Birth Control Patch

From various sources, including a recent CLE seminar:

Users of the Ortho Evra patch face an increased risk of blood clots compared with women using oral contraception.

Users of the Ortho Evra patch had two times the risk of clots compared with women taking birth-control pills.

The results of the two studies were made public by the patch's manufacturer, Ortho Women's Health & Urology. The company is owned by Johnson & Johnson.

STLA this week; Dave Swanner's Blog

Southern Trial Lawyers Association (STLA) in NOLA beginning tonight. I'm headed there, so not much will be posted here on TH or FR. Speaking at the STLA will be Dave Swanner, who has a blog at sctriallaw.com and who showed me the value of blogging.

Here's a useful article he has under 'Resources' that should help in your practice -- for those that have not visted his site, you should:

Digitizing X-Rays

Showing jurors x-rays can be a powerful tool. Especially if your client has a prothesis or hardware. The hardware is a vivid way to make real the pain and difficulties your client has gone through. Assuming you have a laptop and a projector, you can easily get the x-rays into your computer.

1. Take a Picture with a Digital Camera – Put the x-ray in a lightbox and use a good digital camera to take a pic of the illuminated x-ray.

2. Have Your Local Camera Shop Digitize it – An x-ray is a film negative. Granted it’s a large negative, but its’ still just a negative. Your local camera shop should be able to put it on disk for you for a nominal fee.

3. Send it to a Service Bureau – You can send the x-rays to MedQuest and they will put them on disk and ship it back to you for about $10 to $15 an x-ray depending on the volume you do. I know a number of other local/statewide litigation support firms also do this work.

It can be found here.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Case Selection Matters

Merck wins another Vioxx case, a zero verdict in the Irvin trial. This was the retrial of a case that ended in a mistrial last year (November) before Judge Fallon in the MDL.

Many had said that this was a weak case to begin with from both causation and damages. The deceased was a 53-year-old manager of a St. Augustine, Florida- based seafood distributor who took Vioxx for back pain before his May 2001 heart attack. He took the drug for less than 45 days, and there was some question as to the method in which he ac acquired the medication.

What was this case doing in a courthouse at all, much less in a fullblown trial?

Thursday, February 16, 2006

MDL Vioxx Trial: Defense Expects to Rest 2/16/06

Judge Fallon is moving this case. The trial began February 6, 2006 and it looks like the jury will get the case sometime Monday or Tuesday of next week. Youo could see a verdict on February 22 or 23, 2006.

I see it as a quick jury verdict and Merck will win this one as it probably should.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Print This and That For 2/06: Info you can hold

Rather than simply posting links to sites on the web, I wanted to pass along two FREE (yes you read that right) publications that hit my in-box on a regular basis. The first is Law Technology News and the second is eweek, which deals with enterprise tech news.

Article in LTN for the one on my desk now include: Creating Visuals, Beyond Flip Charts, and Searching Podcasts, among others. Lots of PR type snippets that tout new software and products. It's a 10 minute read that is worth the money (did I say it was free?).

eWeek is a little more centered on tech news, what lies ahead, and cutting edge. Some may confine it to the magazine scrapheap in the lobby, but you will find nuggets such as, news on Mobile Google.

And for those who help consumers only in their practice, if you don't subscribe to the Wall Street Journal, well ... shame on you.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

MDL Vioxx Trial Update: Changing Testimony?

With the Defense expected to begin sometime today (after the expected Motion for Directed Verdict), there were some items of interest in this, the Irvin case being tried by Judge Fallon.

Yesterday Gregory Curfman M.D. testified. Curfman is an Editor with NEJM; he testified that there was indeed a connection between the first Irvin trial held in Houston, TX in November of 2005 and the timing of a NEJM editorial that was critical of a study used as evidence in Irvin.

The editorial was clearly critical of the VIGOR study conducted by Merck (and which played a role in the withdrawal of Vioxx). In the first trial, both the Plaintiff and the Defendant used facts and conclusions published in it to support their respective positions about whether Merck told enough about the information on the drug's role in heart attacks.

The editorial specifically claimed that VIGOR failed to mention within it that three patients had heart attacks while taking the painkiller during the study, and that there was an unwarranted conclusion about data that had been reported in VIGOR.

Curfman testified that the NEJM published the editorial online because he thought that his deposition would be heard by the jury in Irvin #1. Curfman testified that because his trial testimony was not an "official" statement by the NEJM, editors believed the editorial should be released first to be sure the information at trial was clearly set out and understood by the public.

Monday, February 13, 2006

2/06 Tech This N' That: Blogs and a Boo for Yahoo Grammy Site

First, the boo, or Bronx cheer to Yahoo.com. It's not enough to have the Grammy Awards - with arguably the year's best talent - get slammed by a show that has singers with no talent (American Idol). When you go to Yahoo! to see the highlights of the show, guess what? You have to download Netscape to view the clips. No thanks.

On to blogs - While I don't typically refer to other blogs, here is a list of ones that are not law related that may have some value to you:

Gadling.com A pretty amazing site that has more than 3000 adventure blogs. You can get info on top trails in the U.S., beaches, and skiing.

- decent independent reviews by travelers. Lots of information on places outside the U.S.

- Gadgetize your iPod with gear, hacks, and more. Hints on helping unfreeze your iPod, how to rank your tunes. Worth a look

43folders.com - Like lifehacker.com this blog has a waterfall of information. Much of it is related to GTD.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Fen Phen Litigation: The End is in Sight (According to Wyeth)

Wyeth's CFO said he was hoped tens of thousands of remaining product-liability lawsuits involving the company's recalled "fen-phen" diet drugs may be "wrapped up" within the next 12 to 24 months. The statement was made at an annual Merrill Lynch conference in NYC.

Wyeth has $5.7 billion in remaining fen-phen reserves. The spokesman said that roughly eighty percent of that could be paid out in the next one to two years.

Wyeth reported that it had settled or was nearing settlement with 30,000 former fen-phen users and was attempting to reach deals with a handful of law firms that represent another 25,000 plaintiffs.

A rep at Merrill said that Wyeth may need to take another $4 billion in fen-phen charges through 2010.

This news comes from several sources, including Yahoo, the ML site, and a Google News posting.

FDA Hits ADHD Drugs in its 2/06 Meetings: Black Box Warning Urged

You can see more information on the FDA site by going here:

An FDA Committee voted yesterday that drugs used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder should come with strong "black-box" warnings that they may raise the risk of heart problems in some patients.

Predictably, the drug makers said "there is no evidence cardiovascular problems occur more often in patients taking ADHD drugs than in the general population." Wow, who saw that comment coming?

The drugs are: Amphetamine/dextroamphetamine (Adderall, Adderall XR, and Dextrostat; Dexedrine and Dexedrine Spansules, methylphenidate (Concerta; Ritalin, Ritalin SR, and Ritalin LA; Methylin and Methylin ER; Metadate ER and Metadate CD, and methamphetamine (Desoxyn) and dexmethylphenidate (Focalin).

Sources for this post included the FDA site, listed above.

Information on Dr. Eric Topol, A Critic of Vioxx

From various sources, listed below this post:

Eric J. Topol, is a renowned cardiologist employed by the Cleveland Clinic for Case Western University's Case Medical School. He is departing that Clinic shortly. A research company has reported that Dr. Topol that he was one of the ten most cited medical researchers of the last ten years. His work has been cited more than 22,000 times.

Topol played a key role in the well regarded Lerner College of Medicine. Until last year Topol held the titles of chief academic officer and provost. Each position was eliminated, after Dr. Topol testified in a Vioxx MDL trial. His deposition testimony was highly critical of Merck. Late last year the New York Times reported that Dr. Topol was placed on "probation."

Yesterday's news (below) indicated that Dr. Topol was leaving and that Attorney Mark Lanier had hired Topol as a consultant. Topol denies that he has been hired.

Merck informed the federal court in New Orleans (Judge Fallon) that Attorney Mark Lanier announced in New Jersey State Court that Dr. Topol was leaving the Cleveland Clinic and that Lanier was to be his personal lawyer over his departure from the clinic.

To me, why this should matter is being overstated. Doctors are hired by attorneys for both sides on a regular basis. Interestingly enough, however, according to Forbes.com:

Topol had also worked as his doctor. 'He's my [Lanier's] cardiologist--I was told I needed to have heart surgery. Dr. Topol's the best cardiologist in the world. "

According to Forbes and others: Lanier said he disclosed his relationships with Topol in court because he had an obligation to do so. But he added that any accusations that he asked Topol to consult for him are "flat-out wrong." "There is no truth to the statement that I've sought him as an expert," Lanier said.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Dr. Topol and Vioxx: Merck Starts the Squeeze?

Dr. Topol has allegedly been been talked to by Attorney Mark Lanier about consulting. Today he said he had not asked Lanier about consulting, and he would never accept such an offer.

Lanier, who won a $253 million judgment against Merck last year has told people that Topol had retained him to work on private matters that he would not discuss. But Lanier said he hasn‘t asked Topol to become a consultant and that Topol is still working at the hospital, which is widely known for cardiac treatment and research.

Beck told U.S. District Judge Eldon Fallon in open court that Topol had left the Cleveland medical center, and that Lanier was representing regarding his departure.

Lanier has apparently told State Court Judge Higbee presiding over Vioxx cases in New Jersey that Topol was now his client. Lanier said he met last Thursday with Judge Carol Higbee about using Topol‘s three-hour deposition in the trial scheduled Feb. 27.

Source: Reuters, Yahoo, Newsday, and other sites.

Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft: Lung Problems for Fetus?

New research links Prozac and other similar antidepressants during pregnancy to yet another complication in newborns: A rare life-threatening lung problem.

Infants whose mothers took the antidepressants in the second half of pregnancy had six times the expected risk of developing the lung disorder, the researchers reported in today's New England Journal of Medicine. Go here for the abstract.

The researchers looked at a problem called persistent pulmonary hypertension. The disorder develops after birth when the infant's lungs do not quickly adapt and there is not enough oxygen reaching the blood.

Fourteen mothers whose infants had the complication reported taking SSRIs during the second half of their pregnancy, compared with six mothers in the comparison group. The researchers calculated the antidepressants increased the risk of the disorder six-fold.

This is from various sources, including ABC, Yahoo, and NEJM's own web site.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Vioxx Trial: New Approach by Counsel for Plaintiff

In Opening Statements in the MDL Trial of Mr. Irvin, attorneys for the Plaintiff took a different tack - asserting that Merck pushed sales over the safety of Vioxx. This was a departure from the medical-heavy opening in the first trial (which ended in a mistrial).

In the first go round doctors told the seated jury why each thought Vioxx had caused the MI suffered by Irvin. Right out of the box medical testimony was presented as promised in opening.

This week, however, each witness called so far was employed in Merck's marketing or public relations department. Jan Weiner with Merck's public affairs department was asked why information about heart attacks was excluded from marketing materials.

The approach is similar to attorney Mark Lanier's approach in the first Vioxx trial - will it work? Stay tuned.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Irvin/Plunkett Trial in MDL: Bad News for Plaintiff

A physician to be called to testify that Vioxx caused a blood clot which killed Richard Irvin cannot do so, ruled Judge Fallon last week. Beasley, Allen serves as Plaintiff's counsel on the case.

Merck's counsel had filed a Motion to Exclude/Disqualify Dr. Michael Graham. What else is news? The Motion filed by Merck notes that three medical experts who testified in the first trial held in Houston because of Hurricane Katrina had apparently been dropped from the Witness List in the Irvin trial

Beasley, Allen had called Michael Graham, M.D. with a view that his testimony would indicate that Vioxx could cause a blood clots in a short period of time, and in fact caused the clot that led to Irvin's heart attack.

In Judge Fallon's Order disqualfying Graham, he wrote that Graham had no pharmacology training, was not qualified to explain how Vioxx might cause a blood clot, has never prescribed it, and got most of his knowledge about the drug in an eight-hour review of medical articles, expert reports and trial transcripts.

The trial is set to start today, February 6, 2006 in New Orleans.

Friday, February 03, 2006

First of many HRT Trials Starting in July of 2006

U.S. District Court Judge William Wilson set the first of 5,000 cases alleging that hormone replacement drugs cause breast cancer for trial in Little Rock, Arkansas on July 31. The Plaintiff is Helene Rush. She has sued Wyeth, Pfizer and other hormone drug manufacturers. Ms. Rush is one of two bellwether plaintiffs whose trials were chosen by Judge Wilson to be set for July 31. She claims that combination estrogen/progesterone replacement drugs
caused their breast cancer.

Baxter Pump Recall: FDA Says it's Serious

Baxter International Inc. said on 2/2 that the company's December 13, 2005 recall of its Colleague Volumetric Infusion Pumps has been classified by the FDA as the most serious type of recall.

The pump was recalled four times in 2005 for various problems, including battery undercharging and underinfusion which could lead to the interruption of therapy.

The recalls were classified by FDA as Class 1, meaning there is a reasonable probability that using the product may cause serious injury or death.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Merck adds to defense costs for Vioxx; 31 States considering litigation?

From multiple sources, including Merck's own sites, Reuters, Yahoo:

Merck & Co. set aside an additional $295 million for legal defense costs related to its withdrawn painkiller Vioxx Vioxx.

Also, Merck also announced its received a subpoena from Attorneys General of 31 states and the District of Columbia who are investigating whether the company violated state consumer protection laws when marketing Vioxx.

Article detailing Wyeth (Fen Phen v. Merck (Vioxx)

Decent analysis regarding the two companies, how the litigation fared, and what lies ahead for Merck. The article notes:

"Merck is willing to incur the substantial legal costs as part of its strategy to fight each lawsuit in court, arguing its case that it did not play down Vioxx's risks. "I think it beats the alternative," said Dick Clark, Merck chief executive.

This strategy, Merck hopes, will save it billions of dollars in liability costs seen with early big litigation settlements such as Wyeth's almost $20bn fenphen payments."

Go here to read more.