Confusion Over a Drug Name Leads to Eye Injury and Lawsuit


Eye_green_smallThe U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently issued a warning to pharmacists and other medical professionals of the potential for confusion between two medications on the market, Durezol and Durasal. Although they have similar-sounding names, the two drugs have very different purposes. Durezol is an FDA-approved prescription eye medication consisting of a 0.05% solution of difluprednate ophthalmic emulsion. In short, it is a highly-diluted solution of a medication used with eye surgery patients. Durasal, on the other hand, is used to treat warts, and it consists of a 26% solution of salicylic acid. This means it has a high concentration of a rather caustic acid. Putting Durasal into your eyes is not a good idea.

The FDA normally reviews drug names to check for potential conflicts like this. Durasal entered the market shortly after the FDA approved Durezol, but it never went through the FDA’s approval process. When the FDA was considering Durezol, therefore, it had no way of knowing of the possible naming conflict. The FDA reportedly asked Durasal’s manufacturer to initiate a recall of the drug while the FDA assesses the risk to patients posed by the similar drug names, but says it has not received a response.

As an image of the two drugs’ packaging posted at the Consumerist‘s website shows, the two drugs have vaguely similar color schemes in their packaging but very different design. The main distinguishing factor is the all-caps warning on the Durasal box that states the product is “NOT FOR USE IN EYES.” It is not clear if this warning appears on the medication bottle itself, or if pharmacists dispensing Durasal even keep it in the original container. For at least one person in New York City, the warning was not enough.

Queens resident Smith Maceus went to a Walgreens pharmacy after a routine surgical procedure on his eye, intending to fill a prescription from his eye doctor for eye drops. The pharmacist allegedly gave him a bottle of Durasal instead of the prescribed Durezol. He has filed a $1 million lawsuit against Walgreens over the incident, claiming that the pharmacy’s error caused him “grievous personal injury.”

An incident in Arizona in 2010 demonstrates the importance of closely checking labels and other packaging on medications, especially ones that treat delicate areas such as the eyes. A woman recovering from cataract surgery reportedly confused a bottle of superglue for her eye drops. She reportedly required the assistance of paramedics to pry her eyelids apart and remove the adhesive material. She told local news that the bottles look almost identical, and that she simply confused them. It is possible that her vision, while in recovery from cataract surgery, was not very good.

New Car Accident App available to Connecticut Drivers

To meet the need for immediate step by step on scene assistance for Connecticut motor vehicle drivers involved in an collision a new Car Accident app has been made available without cost. Very few persons involved in a car crash would think to get legal advice or retain a lawyer instantly in order to know what to do at the scene of the accident and in the immediate aftermath, what to document and how to assemble useful information for an attorney to eventually assist with the claim if need be. The accident app provides that level of instruction. Both i-phone and Android versions of the app have gone live and may be downloaded for free at the links provided herein.

The free release of the car crash app is part of the continuing effort on the part of a law firm dedicated to provide injured people with competent and aggressive legal representation on personal injury matters including automobile, motrocycle and truck accidents. We also represent people in a full range of personal injury litigation including car accidents and truck accidents, construction accidents, work injuries and those caused by dangerous or defective products.

Attorney Levin is rated by AVVO ( Independent Lawyer Research Organization) as “Superb” and has been recognized by Hartford Magazine as a Top Personal Injury lawyer in the Greater Hartford, CT area. BV Distinguished Peer reviewed rating issued by Martindale Hubbel. Office location- 40 Russ Street, Hartford, Connecticut though cases presently handled in Waterbury, New Haven, Middletown, New London and LItchfield regions.

Settlement Reached Between City of Milford, Connecticut and Family of Teen Killed in Crash with Police Car


7066_1274_02262012.jpgThe parties in a lawsuit arising from a 2009 car accident have filed an application for a compromise claim with the Probate Court in Milford, Connecticut. The family of David Serwin filed state and federal lawsuits against the city of Milford, its police department, and two police officers. The proposed settlement of $2.5 million resolves all claims. Another lawsuit, filed by the family of Ashlie Krakowski, remains pending. Serwin, who was nineteen years old when he died in the accident, did not leave a will. Any settlement of the lawsuit requires the approval of the probate judge.

The accident occurred on Route 1 in Orange at about 3:00 a.m. on Saturday, June 13, 2009. Milford police officer Jason Anderson had responded to a brawl at a club in West Haven. As Anderson was going home, his police vehicle broadsided the Mazda driven by Serwin, in which Krakowski was a passenger. Anderson’s cruiser was reportedly traveling 94 miles per hour, but he did not have his siren or emergency lights on.

Serwin and Krakowski both died in the crash. Anderson lost his job with the police department in December 2009 because of the incident. He is also facing charges of second-degree manslaughter, which are reportedly currently in plea negotiations.

Serwin’s parents filed wrongful death suits in both state and federal court against Anderson, the police department, the city, and another Milford police officer. Krakowski’s father and grandmother also sued in state court. Serwin’s family had requested over 2,000 hours of video footage from Milford police cruisers, hoping to demonstrate a pattern of excessive speeding and reckless driving by Milford police. The police department responded to his Freedom of Information Act request with a mere twenty-five hours of footage. A commission determined that the police department had complied as best it could with the family’s request, as it had accidentally erased most of its dash-cam videos.

The lawsuits brought because of this accident involve claims for negligence and wrongful death. They must also overcome the state’s immunity from civil lawsuits, known as sovereign immunity or, in some cases, governmental immunity. A negligence case normally requires proof that a defendant breached a duty of care that caused injury to the plaintiff. In a wrongful death suit, a representative of a person who dies due to a defendant’s negligence can bring suit for the damages and losses resulting from the person’s death.

Man Charged in Western Connecticut State University Hit and Run Accident


624555_45364746_02242012.jpgPolice in Danbury, Connecticut announced the arrest of 22 year-old Eugene Robinson in connection with the November 2011 hit-and-run death of Dong Lin. Lin, a non-matriculated student at Western Connecticut State University, died on November 22 after a car hit him as he crossed the street. We previously remarked on this case in this Connecticut Injury Attorney Blog in November. Robinson, who is also a student at WCSU, reportedly turned himself in on Friday, January 27, when he learned that police had issued a warrant for his arrest. His attorney says that he has cooperated with police throughout the investigation, and that he notified authorities of his involvement in the accident two days after it occurred.

Robinson faces a charge of evading responsibility because he allegedly fled the scene of the accident after his vehicle allegedly struck Lin. “Evading responsibility” is defined by Connecticut law, in part, as failing to stop and render assistance when one had knowingly been involved in an accident that involves serious injury to, or the death of, another person. The statute requires a person to provide needed assistance and to provide identifying information to a witness or to law enforcement. The statute prescribes a penalty of one to ten years imprisonment, a fine of up to $10,000, or a combination thereof.

Robinson entered a plea of not guilty in Danbury Superior Court on February 16. He must report back to court on March 7. After his arrest, the court freed him on $10,000 bail.

The accident occurred at around 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, November 22, 2011. Lin was crossing White Street when a car, described a by witnesses as dark-colored and “boxy,” hit him. Lin was pronounced dead at Danbury Hospital later in the day. Witnesses said that the car did not appear to be speeding. Authorities have given no indication that alcohol played any role in the accident at all. According to Robinson’s attorney, he did not have time to react when Lin stepped into the street. He says Robinson drove away because he “panicked.”

Witnesses have also suggested that Lin was distracted when he tried to cross White Street, The spot where he stepped into the street is reportedly two hundred feet from the nearest crosswalk. Investigators have also suggested that Lin might have been texting shortly before he was hit. He was apparently sending a text message to a friend at the time of the accident.

Sprouts from Restaurant Chain Sicken People in at Least Five States


710117_83892230_02212012.jpgA recent outbreak of foodborne illness has sickened at least twelve people in five states. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced last week that raw sprouts at Jimmy John’s restaurants were contaminated with E. Coli bacteria. The contaminated sprouts are believed to have come from one supplier which has been linked to other outbreaks.

Reports of illness in the current outbreak came from Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Wisconsin. They occurred between December 25, 2011 and January 15, 2012, causing the hospitalization of two victims. Fortunately, no one has died due to illness caused by the outbreak. The victims, all female, ranged in age from nine to forty-nine. Illnesses occurring after January 27 may not be included in the CDC’s report.

The particular strain of E. Coli, O26, is relatively rare. It can cause acute and painful diarrhea and a condition known as hemolytic-uremic syndrome, a potentially fatal condition that can include anemia and kidney failure. It is related to a strain known as O157:H7 that is often found in outbreaks in ground beef.

Jimmy John’s and its suppliers have allegedly been involved in at least two prior outbreaks of foodborne illnesses. An outbreak of salmonella in 2009 sickened over one hundred people in the Midwest, and sprouts were suspected to be the cause of a 2008 E. Coli outbreak in Boulder, Colorado. According to the CDC, sprouts have played a role in four outbreaks linked to Jimmy John’s restaurants around the country since 2008.

After last year’s outbreak, Jimmy John’s reportedly announced that it would switch from alfalfa sprouts to clover sprouts, which are easier to keep clean. Sprouts are generally served raw and are touted as a healthy addition to sandwiches and other dishes. They need warm, moist conditions in which to grow, however, which makes them particularly prone to bacterial growth. With no cooking procedure to kill microorganisms, washing is the only definitive way to protect against contamination.

Jimmy John’s corporate office has not issued any statements on the matter. A reporter for the Syracuse Post-Standard reported on February 20 that a Jimmy John’s location in Syracuse had stopped serving raw sprouts with any of its sandwiches. A similar story appeared in the Kirksville, Missouri Daily Express on February 17. Whether this is a central decision by Jimmy John’s officers or a local decision by one or more restaurants remains to be seen.

Federal Safety Agencies Recommend Banning Almost All Electronic Device Usage While Driving


1035921_33019187_02202012.jpgThe U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) issued a series of non-binding guidelines to automakers last week, requesting that any integrated electronic devices placed in new cars have a feature disabling social networks like Facebook and Twitter while the car is in motion. DOT may also develop guidelines for handheld electronics like cell phones and voice-activated electronic systems. This is part of DOT’s campaign to cut down on “distracted driving,” meaning driving while using a device that takes the driver’s attention off the road. This includes not only talking on a mobile phone but also texting and using social media.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which is part of DOT, nearly ten percent of all traffic fatalities in 2010 involved distracted driving. The use of hands-free devices like headsets does not necessarily improve a driver’s attention.

Auto industry analysts estimate that the number of sales of new cars that have smartphone and “embedded connectivity units” will increase by twenty-nine percent in the United States in 2012, with at least 5.8 million “in-vehicle units.” These include not only smartphones and other mobile phones, but also devices physically embedded in the cars themselves such as GPS navigation systems. Some cars also feature attached or embedded devices that allow passengers, although ideally not drivers, to access the internet. By 2026, some analysts expect that all cars sold in North America and Japan will have some sort of embedded technology. Mobile phones have grown more sophisticated as well, allowing drivers to make and receive phone calls and to use multiple features of the internet.

In December 2011, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), another agency of DOT, recommended that states enact laws banning the use of mobile phones and other electronic communications devices while driving. In September, it had recommended a ban on mobile device usage by commercial drivers, such as truck drivers. The NTSB has no actual rule-making authority and can only issue recommendations to other federal agencies and state and local governments. This Connecticut Injury Attorney Blog reported on the NTSB’s recommendation in December. Its recommendation specifically covered “non-emergency” use of call phones while driving, but it may expand its recommendations to request a ban on all mobile phone use. It has called distracted driving a public health crisis comparable to drunk driving or smoking.

Automakers are working on guidelines of their own related to distracted driving. Rather than disabling electronic devices, industry guidelines would seek to minimize the amount of time drivers must take their eyes off the road. This would serve to allow drivers to have access to electronic devices, which can come in handy in emergency situations, but would also work to prevent distraction.

Construction Worker Paralyzed by a Drunk Driver Receives a Record Workers’ Compensation Settlement


871543_58184821_02152012.jpgA Pennsylvania construction worker who was paralyzed in a 2001 hit and run accident has received a $3 million workers’ compensation settlement, believed to be one of the largest settlements ever. His case has been, to put it mildly, a rollercoaster ride through many of the most difficult obstacles a personal injury plaintiff can face. After a lawsuit for negligence and Dram Shop Act liability, he had to pursue a claim for bad faith refusal to pay an insurance claim. With the settlement of his workers’ compensation claim, perhaps the case can have some closure.

Joseph Tuski worked as a road flagman in Warminster, Pennsylvania. In January 2001, he was directing traffic around a construction site when a car driven by Michael Petaccio reportedly hit him, throwing him fifteen feet in the air and sixty feet away. Tuski suffered severe neck and spinal injuries, brain injuries, and broken limbs. The injuries rendered Tuski a quadriplegic, and he continues to require around-the-clock medical care.

Petaccio was the manager of the Ivyland Cafe and had reportedly just left there when the accident occurred. He fled the scene of the accident and was arrested several days later. He pleaded guilty to aggravated assault while driving under the influence in 2001 and received a prison sentence of one and a half to three years.

Tuski filed suit against Petaccio and the Ivyland Cafe, alleging that Petaccio was negligent and therefore liable for his injuries, and that the Ivyland Cafe was liable under the Dram Shop Act. This law allows someone injured by a person under the influence of alcohol to recover damages from the person or business that served the person alcohol, if they did so when the person was already visibly and unreasonably intoxicated. In early 2004, a jury in Philadelphia awarded Tuski $75.6 million in compensatory and punitive damages, which Tuski’s lawyer at the time claimed was the largest verdict in a liquor liability case in Pennsylvania history.

Connecticut Hiker Dies in Fall at State Park


451px-SlGiant_02102012.jpgA teenage hiker died last Sunday in a tragic fall at Sleeping Giant, a ridge located in Connecticut’s Sleeping Giant State Park. Tobias Engel, an 18 year-old high school senior, was hiking alone when he fell about two hundred feet off of a cliff at around 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, February 5. Other hikers saw him fall, and were able to direct the Hamden Fire Department to Engel’s location when they arrived on the scene at 5:00 p.m. Emergency responders used an ATV to get him out of the park. Engel was reportedly conscious when they found him. They rushed him to Yale-New Haven Hospital, where he died later that day.

The state’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, which administers the park where the fall occurred, issued a statement indicating that the incident was likely a case of slip and fall. The trail goes very close to the edge of the ridge in the area where Engel fell, a spokesperson said. The case remains under investigation to determine whether the state should alter any of the safeguards or procedures in the park. According to the Hartford Courant, five “cliff rescues” have occurred at Connecticut state parks since 2008, as well as three cases of injured hikers needing help on wooded park trails.

Sleeping Giant is a traprock mountain in southeastern Connecticut, part of the Metacomet Ridge that runs north-south across the state. Its highest point is 739 feet above sea level, and it is a prominent feature of the landscape. It is named because of its resemblance to a reclining human figure. The mountain itself extends for about two miles. The area where Engel fell is known as the “chin.”

Cases involving falls and other injuries by hikers bring up questions of premises liability, which is the legal doctrine that holds an owner or manager of property liable for injuries caused by unsafe or dangerous conditions on that property. At the same time, such cases also involve the question of comparative negligence, which is a legal defense to liability in some cases. A defendant can argue that an injured person is at least partly at fault for their injuries, and this argument can apply in the case of risky activities with known dangers. If an injured person is found to be partly at fault, the damage award against the defendant would be reduced by the plaintiff’s share of liability. A poll conducted by the North Branford Patch, while not scientific at all, demonstrates the popular notion that people take on at least some of the responsibility in activities such as these.

Connecticut Firefighter Recounts His Survival of an Exploding Propane Tank


173_8399_02062012.jpgTwo volunteer firefighters in Portland, Connecticut suffered serious injuries last year while responding to a fire at a duplex home. A backhoe operator clearing snow from the home’s driveway on Saturday, January 29, 2011, accidentally ruptured the underground propane tank located behind the house. Propane vented out, and the cold air turned it to a quickly-spreading vapor. The operator alerted residents and left the area. A neighbor called 911, and police and firefighters rushed in to evacuate remaining residents.

Lieutenant Todd Ghent and firefighter Tim Goff arrived at the scene with a portable gas meter. Intending to measure the level of gas in the backyard, they headed toward the tank. The meter reportedly showed a sudden spike in the gas level. Ghent ordered Goff away from the area. An open garage door had allowed gas to pool, since propane is heavier than the surrounding air. A still-unexplained spark ignited the gas before they could get away. A fireball engulfed the two men. As the Middletown Press noted at the time, firefighters then had to deal with two injured colleagues and a house fire. Fire units from surrounding towns responded to help with the fire.

Ghent was taken to Hartford Hospital with second- and third-degree burns to his head, face, and neck, and he was transferred to a burn unit for intensive treatment. He spent three days in the burn unit and was then confined to his house for three weeks. Goff was treated at Middlesex Hospital for burns on his hands and reportedly released the following day. Firefighters extinguished the fire, but the house was effectively destroyed.

A year later, the Hartford Courant interviewed Ghent about his ordeal. He credits instinct for his split-second decision to hold his breath when the propane exploded. The air surrounding the explosion would have been heated to almost 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Had he inhaled, the air would have seared his lungs and killed him. Instead, he dropped to the ground and somehow managed to find his way to a snow bank to put out the fire on his head.

Haitian Students Sue Connecticut School Over Sexual Abuse


Palais_de_Sans-souci_side_view_02062012.jpgA tragic saga involving sexual abuse of poor children at a school in Haiti began a new chapter earlier this month, when seventeen Haitian men filed a lawsuit against Fairfield University, a Jesuit college in Connecticut, and others for damages arising from sexual abuse by Douglas Perlitz. Perlitz is a Fairfield graduate who founded Project Pierre Toussant (PPT) in 1997 to provide education and other care to impoverished youth in Haiti’s second-largest city. The program took children in from the streets and offered educational services, sports, meals, and other amenities. Supporters at Fairfield University and in the surrounding community formed a nonprofit organization, The Haiti Fund, to assist in fundraising in 1999.

Perlitz ran PPT from its founding until sometime in 2008, when allegations of sexual abuse appeared and the Haiti Fund’s board of directors removed him. Allegations detailed multiple incidents of sexual abuse of children in PPT’s care by Perlitz. He allegedly threatened to kick children out of PPT if they did not cooperate with him. Perlitz was arrested in 2009,

Federal prosecutors charged him with “traveling with the intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct.” This is a federal crime intended to prevent trafficking of minors across state or national boundaries for the purpose of committing “illegal sex acts.” The PROTECT Act, passed by Congress in 2003, made it a crime, punishable in the United States, for a U.S. citizen or permanent resident to engage in “illicit sexual contact with a minor” while abroad, even if the person did not intend to do so at the time they left the U.S. This law was intended to combat “sex tourism.” Perlitz pleaded guilty to one count of traveling with intent to engage in illicit sexual contact in August 2010. A judge sentenced him to nineteen years and seven months in federal prison that December.

Seventeen Haitian men, ranging in age from 18 to 29 and alleging that they were victims of Perlitz, filed a lawsuit in a U.S. District Court in Connecticut on January 5. Each plaintiff claims $20 million in damages. A total of twenty-one victims have filed lawsuits related to abuse allegedly brought on by Perlitz. The latest lawsuit names Perlitz, Fairfield University, The Haiti Fund, The Society of Jesus of New England, and certain current and former Fairfield officials as defendants. It alleges that the school and the other defendants both “aided and abetted” and helped conceal Perlitz’s abuse. In one instance, a Fairfield official allegedly removed Perlitz’s computer from Haiti and then returned it to Perlitz in the United States in order to prevent law enforcement from discovering sexually explicit material stored on the hard drive.