One thing we often hear from prospective jurors in Phoenix (and throughout Arizona) is that medical malpractice should have caps on damages because high verdicts cause medical costs and insurance for doctors to go up. Study after study proves that this is simply wrong, but the insurance companies have done a great job (read: spent hundreds of millions of dollars) convincing people that it is true. In Arizona, our state constitution prohibits a cap on damages for medical malpractice or wrongful death cases (and for any personal injury case). Since we have no cap on medical malpractice damages, the cost of medical malpractice insurance for doctors must be through the roof, right?
This month, Arizona’s largest medical malpractice insurance provider for doctors announced that it is giving its members $25 million in a dividend. This money is collected from premiums that doctors pay for their insurance, which is then used to set reserves for lawsuits. If verdicts and settlements were so egregiously high that they were harming the system, MICA would not be RETURNING $25 million to its insureds. The fact is that verdicts in Arizona are notoriously LOW when compared to other states. This is not because the cases are worth less; it is because insurance companies have spent decades bombarding Arizonians with misinformation about how lawsuits hurt the community.
For over 35 years, Snyder & Wenner has litigated only the most important medical malpractice and wrongful death cases. We have been able to provide families and victims with money to help them continue on with their lives despite their terrible, life-changing losses. We have also been fortunate to use lawsuits as a mechanism to force hospitals and doctors to change how they run their practices. Too often, hospitals and doctors put profits over safety, and fail to protect the patient. If it were not for medical malpractice and wrongful death lawsuits, hospitals and doctors would have no check and balance on their conduct. These cases are important, and we are proud to help those in need. So, the next time someone tells you that we need to keep medical malpractice and wrongful death verdicts in Phoenix low, please remind them that Arizona’s largest medical malpractice insurance company has made so much money that it is returning $25 MILLION to its doctors.
Today, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a statement that a salmonella outbreak that has been linked to 73 people over 31 states is actually linked to Kellogg’s Honey Smacks cereal. Of the 73 people, 24 have been hospitalized. While not all boxes of Honey Smacks are affected, Kellogg has announced a recall of 15.3-ounc and 23-ounce packages of the cereal that have a “best if used by” date of June 14, 2018 through June 14, 2019.
Salmonella can be a deadly and devastating illness. Just this year, Snyder & Wenner was involved with a salmonella case against Foster Farms chicken, wherein it was alleged that the company knowingly and/or negligently sold contaminated chicken. The jury agreed, awarding a multi-million dollar verdict in favor of our client. This verdict came after Foster Farms refused to make a single offer to settle the case.
If you or someone you know became sick after eating Kellogg’s Honey Smacks cereal, please call Snyder & Wenner right away so we can work to protect your rights. For over 35 years, Snyder & Wenner has worked tirelessly to protect the safety of members of our local Arizona community, and throughout the entire country. In doing so, we have collected over $150 million for our clients and their families.
Snyder & Wenner, P.C., is proud to announce that two of its attorneys, David Wenner and Brian Snyder, won a $15 million verdict against Banner UMC Hospital in Tucson. The trial took 3 weeks and the jury deliberated for approximately 3.5 hours before returning the monumental verdict. It is believed that the verdict is the highest for a medical malpractice trial in Arizona in the last 20 years.
Esmeralda Tripp, 42 years old, walked into UMC Hospital on September 13, 2013. She was on a medication called Coumadin, and her blood levels were extremely high. She was treated by a resident physician, only 8 weeks out of medical school, and an attending physician. Ms. Tripp had experienced this problem many times in the past, and each time they treated her with Fresh Frozen Plasma, with Vitamin K, or simply by withholding her Coumadin. The resident physician, however, decided to suggest a very dangerous blood-clotting medication called Profilnine. The hospital had a specific guideline on when Profilnine could be used: The patient had to have serious or life-threatening bleeding or require emergency surgery. In those two scenarios, Profilnine could be used. Esmeralda did not have any serious or life-threatening bleeding, and she did not require emergency surgery. The resident physician still suggested Profilnine, and the attending physician signed off on it. After the drug was administered, the resident went home for the night because she was tired. The attending physician left the hospital before the drug was even given. Only 2 hours later, Esmeralda screamed out in pain and her vital signs crashed. It was determined that she had suffered a heart attack. She was without oxygen for so long that she suffered severe, permanent brain damage. Seven weeks later she was discharged from the hospital, in a completely unresponsive state. It has been 4 years, and Esmeralda is still completely unresponsive. Her family cares for her and she receives in-home care provided by the state.
At trial, the defense attorney argued that his clients did nothing wrong. He repeatedly told the jury that the hospital’s own guideline was simply a “suggestion,” and that the doctors could do what they wanted. He also argued that Esmeralda did not deserve any money for her injuries because she had incorrectly told prior doctors about a lengthy medical history that did not exist. Finally, he told the jury that since Esmeralda is not aware of her injuries, she does not need any money for them.
Brian Snyder gave the plaintiff’s opening statement and told the jury what happened and how Esmeralda’s life has been permanently ruined by these doctors’ choice. Along with David Wenner, the two cross-examined defendants and their experts, obtaining numerous admissions throughout the trial. Co-counsel Kevin Keenan gave the closing argument, and asked for $15-20 million to compensate Esmeralda for her losses. Only 3.5 hours later, the jury came back with precisely what they were asked to award: $15 million, which will help pay for the around-the-clock medical care that Esmeralda needs and which will compensate her for robbing her of her independence.
Most Arizona residents love our state for its open, airy feel and the scenic beauty. Unfortunately, we have also grown accustomed to the numerous deadly trucking accidents and commercial vehicle accidents that plague our roads each day. In fact, a new article in The Arizona Republic declares that from 2013-2015, a fatal freeway accident occurred in the Valley about every 5 days, leaving 207 people dead. This terrifying data proves what many of us have known for years: Arizona’s freeways are deadlier than most other states’ roadways. The margin of difference is not insignificant, either. According to the 2013 Federal Highway Administration and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data, deaths on Arizona freeways and interstates occurred at a rate 61% higher than the national average.
Did you know that some trucking companies are involved in significantly more trucking accidents each year than others?
These catastrophic collisions do not discriminate based on time, day, or even the freeway. The article notes that, “Over the past three years, drivers and their passengers died on Valley freeways at every time of day, on every day of the week, and on every major freeway.” The data also provides that the majority of fatal crashes occurred in May, June, and July, months when most families take vacations by driving to their destinations. 52% of the fatal collisions occurred on a weekend, between 4am and 11pm. Obviously the earlier hours can be explained by lack of sleep the night before, but crashes later in the day may be attributed to truck drivers who have logged significant driving time without a break, or commercial vehicle drivers who have not rested throughout the day. Also unsurprisingly, of the 196 fatal collisions, approximately 56% occurred on I-10 and I-17.
Can anything be done to reverse this trend? Unfortunately, the contributing factors vary so significantly that it is difficult to pinpoint one way to fix the safety problem. Approaching the issue from all angles, however, can help. Not texting and driving is an obvious, but often ignored, critical step. Finding new ways to ensure that truck drivers perform requisite safety inspections on their semi-trucks and that they log a satisfactory amount of sleep will help cut down on trucking accidents. Companies setting fewer appointments each day, in order to minimize the rush of commercial vehicle drivers will also help reduce the number of deaths. There is no single answer to the problem, but we must do something to reverse the growing number of deaths due to trucking accidents and other commercial vehicle collisions each year.
It’s no secret that the auto industry is slowly moving towards self-driving vehicles. Since Tesla (and others) first introduced this technology, though, the debate immediately began: Are self-driving cars, powered by a computer and sensors, as safe or safer than cars driven by humans? For years, Tesla and Google have touted that throughout all of their testing, not one autonomous vehicle had been in an accident that was that car’s fault (i.e., any collisions were the fault of the other drivers). Proponents were touting the safety of computer-driven vehicles, saying the system does not suffer from the same issues as human drivers, namely fatigue, distractions, and poor judgment. Suddenly, however, those years of studies and successes were turned on their head, as a driver of a Tesla Model S electric sedan was killed in an accident when the car was in self-driving mode.
While federal regulators have opened up a formal investigation, the preliminary reports suggest the crash occurred when a tractor trailer made a left-hand turn in front of the Tesla, and the self-driving car failed to apply the brakes. Tesla released a statement saying, “Neither autopilot nor the driver noticed the white side of the tractor-trailer against a brightly lit sky, so the brake was not applied.” Does this mean that even the computer system can suffer the same “human error” as we do?
Technology is great, and it helps to advance our lives in ways we never had previously imagined. Perhaps the time has come, though, to take a step back to determine if the technology advancement is truly at the level where it is safe for everyone on the road. The hope is that self-driving cars reduce collisions that result in death and catastrophic injuries, but this unfortunate incident, while only constituting one bad outcome, must raise some red flags.
We often take busses and trains to avoid the potential dangers of driving long distances. Perhaps we take that safety for granted. In 2013, a Greyhound bus accident forever the changed the lives of all those onboard.
The bus was traveling from New York to Cleveland. At 1:33am, the bus slammed into the back of a tractor trailer on I-80 in Pennsylvania. The impact caused one passenger on the buss to be thrown out, onto the road. The back wheels of the bus lifted off the ground. A CNN investigation has revealed that Greyhound has not been enforcing its own rules that are intended to keep their passengers safe.
The CNN report found that despite touting safety as its company’s priority, Greyhound did not ensure that drivers avoided deadly issues of fatigue. One such rule required drivers to stop approximately every 150 miles to check tires, to walk around the bus, and to use the stop to refresh the driver to help him or her stay alert. Despite this rule, several of Greyhound’s posted routes have no place to stop for well over 150 miles.
This is not an isolated incident. A government study from 2012 found that 37% of all passenger bus accidents were due to driver fatigue. 5 deaths caused by bus accidents between 2010 and 2014 were also attributed to driver fatigue.
Bus accidents and trucking accidents are on the rise. Why? Drivers are being pressured by their companies to drive longer hours in order to make more deliveries, to finish passenger routes faster, and to save money. When these bus and trucking companies put profits over safety, innocent passengers and drivers on the road will suffer. The 2013 Greyhound bus accident is just one of many examples. To find out the “100 Worst Trucking Companies” as rated by the number of accidents, click here. For more information on trucking accidents and bus accidents, and how we protect our community, click here.
Technology is pushing us in directions that were once only thought to be possible in an episode of The Jetsons. A new startup company, Otto, is dedicated to bringing self-driving trucks into reality. According to a new report by technology website Engadget, Otto is attempting “to build a system for some of the largest trucks that haul freight up and down our highways.” Rather than requiring the trucking companies to rebuild their entire fleet of vehicles with this technology, Otto’s vision would permit “an aftermarket kit” that can simply be installed on existing semi-trucks.
What does this mean for the public? Each year, trucking accidents account for over 5,000 deaths and more than 10,000 serious and catastrophic injuries. The causes of these collisions is well-documented to be due to, among other serious issues, truck drivers getting too little sleep despite strict laws requiring it, and trucking companies not providing the appropriate maintenance to their vehicles. If the technology built into the vehicle could detect a drowsy truck driver or a semi-truck that needs maintenance, many of the deadly and catastrophic collisions on our interstates could be avoided. While self-driving vehicles are in their infancy, the data thus far is clear: computer error is far less common than human error.
If you have been the victim of a trucking accident, it is important to hire an attorney who has experience litigating these cases. Often times the cause of the collision can only be determined by thorough investigation, which can cost tens of thousands of dollars. If the law firm is not equipped, and does not have the experience, to conduct this investigation, the trucking company may get off the hook from being held accountable for your pain and suffering.
For years we have been telling the public all of the statistics supporting the finding that medical malpractice accounts for one of the leading causes of death in our country. A new study by researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine, and reported by NPR, now confirms it.
Based on the research, Johns Hopkins now estimates that more than 250,000 Americans die each year from medical errors. That ranks medical malpractice as the 3rd leading cause of death in our country, behind only heart disease and cancer. The study also noted, however, that the numbers may be even more significant, as the current coding system used by the Center For Disease Control does not account for very important factors that lead to medical malpractice, including communication breakdowns, diagnostic errors, and poor judgment.
The problem is so significant, in fact, that the doctors in charge of the study actually called for changed to be made in death certificates to better reflect fatal lapses in case. In an open letter, they also urge the CDC to immediately add “medical errors” to its annual list reporting the top causes of death.
So, since this is such a significant problem, we must ask ourselves “why is nothing being done to reverse the alarming trend?” Rather than attack the problem head on, insurance companies and hospitals have engaged in a dangerous game of pointing the finger at the victims and the victims’ families who try to hold the doctors and hospitals accountable for their conduct. Tort reform is not the answer; a safer and more responsible system of medicine is.