Curtains Go Up Again on Fungal Meningitis Outbreak

The story that began in 2012 when vials of pain and swelling relief medication were found to be contaminated with fungal meningitis continues to unfold. Failed mediation has signaled a resumption of civil litigation.

New England Compounding Center (NECC) was first named in civil lawsuit alleging liability for the production and distribution of contaminated methylprednisolone acetate. Sixty-four people died and 751 people were infected before the contaminated batches of medication were pulled out. NECC has since declared bankruptcy, but not before agreeing to a $100 million settlement to benefit the victims and the company’s creditors.

Now the curtain has gone up against Liberty Industries Inc., the contractor which designed and maintained the clean rooms at NECC. According to, Liberty had taken on the duty to provide facilities that would ensure the safety and cleanliness of the medications that went through these clean rooms, and failed miserably. In the case of NECC, other preparations that may have also been contaminated due in part to Liberty’s negligence include betamethasone, triamcinolone, and cardioplegia solution.

While this does not let NECC off the hook, the focus is now on the clean room company. NECC is based in Massachusetts but shipped the contaminated products to at least 23 states, including California where one personal injury case was filed by Dawn Younani, who received three shots from contaminated batches of methylprednisolone acetate following a surgical procedure. Other Californians may soon have use for Irvine personal injury lawyers to represent them in civil litigation against Liberty and to make a claim against NECC.

While the fungal meningitis outbreak scare is winding down, the statute of limitations has not yet run out for those who have only been recently made aware that their conditions may have been due to inoculation via contaminated drugs caused by the negligence of NECC and Liberty. Symptoms of fungal meningitis include:

  • Altered mental state
  • Fever
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sensitivity to light (photophobia)
  • Neck pain or stiffness

If you suspect that you may have contracted fungal meningitis from contaminated drugs from NECC, have yourself tested immediately. If the tests come back positive, contact a personal injury lawyer in your area to assess your case.

Fiduciary Duty and What it Means

Fiduciary duty may seem like a dry legal concept that has very little to do with everyday life, but in fact it acts on most people on a daily basis. Fiduciary duty is defined as the responsibility of one party who is placed in a position of trust to act on behalf of another party’s best interests. Examples of instances when fiduciary duty is relevant include transactions between a doctor and a patient, a bank and a depositor, and a priest and a confessor. In each of these relationships, one party has complete confidence that the other party will not profit from their association to his or her detriment.

Of course, fiduciary duty is not a phrase that is commonly used. What would be more familiar to a lay person would be doctor-patient confidentiality and sanctity of the confessional. When it comes to estate planning and probate, however, a fiduciary plays a crucial role. The fiduciary is expected to carry out the wishes and directions of the principal as stated in a last will and testament, trusts, or other legal document even if it conflicts with the fiduciary’s beliefs, opinions, or benefit. Examples of fiduciaries in estate planning would be executors, banking institutions, asset managers, and probate lawyers.

For example, if a millionaire in Houston leaves a will dividing the estate equally between his wife and his daughter, his executor would need to determine which goes to who while the Houston lawyer would ensure that the estate goes through probate court as speedily as possible. It would be a break of fiduciary duty for the executor to under-appraise an asset and then acquire it from the estate. In the case of the probate lawyer, it would be a breach to delay the probate process to motivate one or more heirs to “grease the wheels” to make the process go faster.

Fiduciary duty is considered one which is brought to the highest legal standard, and it is easy to breach it unknowingly or unintentionally. If you suspect a breach of fiduciary duty in estate planning or probate in yourself or others, consult with a lawyer experienced in such matters.

The Good and the Bad of Topamax

This last six months or so has been a rollercoaster ride for pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson (J&J) when it comes to its Jekyll and Hyde product Topamax. J&J recently received approval for the use of Topamax (topiramate) for 12 to 17-year-olds to prevent the onset of migraines. This was a few months after the company suffered its second major setback in court for failure to warn litigation for the same product where the plaintiff was awarded $11 million in damages.

Topamax is an anti-epileptic medication that was first introduced in 1996 and was found to be highly efficacious, contributing to its popularity. However, the product was routinely prescribed for off-label uses such as weight loss and for treating bipolar disorder, which would have been fine…except for the side effects. By 2011, it was apparent that Topamax caused birth defects in women who took the medication while they were pregnant.

Topamax lawyers for the plaintiffs alleged that J&J’s subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals has known about the risk to patients and their unborn children but failed to warn them or their physicians about it. That, coupled with aggressive marketing strategies that encouraged off-label use of Topamax, was a recipe for disaster for which J&J is now financially liable.

With this new approved use of Topamax, which is now clearly labeled to indicate risks to pregnant women and for off-label uses, it is presumed that J&J will more than recoup their present and future losses in the legal arena, although the company intends to appeal the 2 verdicts that have been handed down against them. There are currently more than 130 cases still pending against J&J for Topamax.

If your child was born with birth defects because of Topamax, you may have an actionable case. Consult with an experienced Topamax lawyer in your area to find out if you can sue for compensation.

Death and Injury in Fireworks Mishap

Preparations for a day meant to be in celebration were cut short when a trailer full of fireworks exploded, killing one person and seriously injuring three others. Investigations are ongoing, and a reckoning will have to be made soon.

Kiwanis Club members who were setting up the famous fireworks display slated as the culminating activity for the upcoming Fourth of July celebrations in the small town of Comanche near Fort Worth were interrupted by a loud explosion coming from the direction of the local high school. One volunteer was near enough to the trailer to have been killed on the spot. The planned activities for the next day were canceled as a result.

The fireworks display had been a tradition in the town (population 4,500) for 24 years, drawing visitors from Fort Worth, Dallas, and Austin, and nothing untoward had happened before. It is unclear what triggered the explosion. State fire marshals and agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are investigating.

There are many possible explanations for the explosion, such as manufacturing defects or improper handling that caused the fireworks to go off unprovoked. It may be that someone had unintentionally or deliberately set it off by throwing a lighted match or live cigarette in the vicinity of the trailer. It is likely that the explosion was a result of some type of negligence, if not malice.

If and when the triggering agent is identified, families of the deceased and injured club members may seek to get compensation from the responsible parties. It will not be an easy task as explosion accidents often leave very little behind. In this case, Fort Worth personal injury lawyers should be engaged as they would have the resources to acquire the evidence to support a claim that is not available to most lay people.

Factors Affecting Child Custody

Child custody is hands-down the most emotionally-charged issue in a contentious divorce, and that is true in Texas as anywhere else in the US. Most state laws would encourage parents to share custody (or conservatorship in Texas) of their children based on the premise that it would be in their best interest to have significant contact with both parents. The Woodlands child custody lawyers can explain each parent’s rights when it comes to child custody so that an equitable agreement can be forged. However, when the parents can agree on nothing, they are unlikely to come up with a parenting agreement to present to the court. The courts will then have to decide for them.

Winning a child custody case requires extensive preparation, and it goes beyond financial or emotional capacity. In most cases, very young children are awarded custody to the mother even now because there are roles that a mother typically assumes, although this is no longer automatic. A father who wants to take over these roles will have to prove that he has the requisite qualities to do so, and that can be tricky, especially if the father has not taken on such roles i.e. homemaker prior to the divorce.

There is also the question of time. Most spouses work to make ends meet, which means that both parents may be out of the house most of the time. Sole physical conservatorship may be awarded to the parent who has a more flexible or regular schedule, while the other parent may be required to pay child support. This does not mean that one parent is more capable than the other, though.

Geography may also play a role in the court’s decision to award conservatorship. A parent who plans to relocate to another city or state may be at a disadvantage when it comes to winning conservatorship, as children may suffer from having their whole lives disrupted because of a divorce. Being in familiar surroundings among people they know may be beneficial for them to provide stability at a time when everything they know is changing.

If you are considering divorce but worried about your children, you should consult with an experienced divorce lawyer in your area to find out what you could be facing. If child custody is apt to become a problem, your lawyer will be able to advise you about how best to proceed.

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