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Fitbit Faces Consumer Class-Action Lawsuit over its Recalled Force Fitness Trackers

Fitbit, the maker of Fitbit Force fitness trackers, is facing a class-action lawsuit over the devices, which caused rashes and skin irritations in 1.7 percent of users.

The lawsuit, filed last Monday in the Superior Court of California in the County of San Diego, seeks class-action status and accuses the company of misleading consumers in its promotion and advertising of the Force, which is designed to allow users to track their sleep and activity, and then sync the data up to a computer or smartphone for review, according to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ). More Fitbit Faces Consumer Class-Action Lawsuit over its Recalled Force Fitness Trackers

Bill Proposed in Maryland to Prohibit Sale of Energy Drinks to Minors

A bill has been introduced in Maryland that would ban the marketing and sale of energy drinks to minors.

CNBC reported that the bill was introduced in Maryland’s General Assembly on Thursday. If the bill becomes law, Maryland would be the first state to ban the sale of energy drinks to minors. More Bill Proposed in Maryland to Prohibit Sale of Energy Drinks to Minors

Documents Show Abuse in Jewish Sect Lev Tahor

The ongoing investigation into the ultra-orthodox Jewish sect Lev Tahor has revealed disturbing details of physical and sexual abuse and imprisonment of young girls.

Recently released police documents show allegations of sexual abuse, confinement, and beatings with crowbars, belts, whips and a coat hanger among the claims connected with Lev Tahor, the Toronto Star reported. The documents helped police obtain search warrants, which they executed in January on properties belonging to Lev Tahor families in both Ontario and Quebec. The documents paint an ugly picture of a community whose women and children are kept in a tightly controlled environment with strictly enforced rules, according to the Toronto Star. More Documents Show Abuse in Jewish Sect Lev Tahor

Neurological Patients at Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center Exposed to Deadly Brain Disease

Eighteen patients from a hospital in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, were exposed to an incurable degenerative brain disease known as Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD) while undergoing surgery at the facility.

Surgical instruments at Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center were insufficiently sterilized after an operation was performed on a patient with CJD on January 18 and were then used on 18 neurological patients at the facility. More Neurological Patients at Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center Exposed to Deadly Brain Disease

Red Light Cameras Use Short Yellow Lights, Leading to Ticket & Revenue Increases

If the time between New York City traffic lights turning from yellow to red seems shorter than it should, that may in fact be the case. According to random surveys conducted by AAA New York, intersections with cameras have yellow lights that are shorter by as much as 15 percent compared to the city standard. The shorter amount of time between yellow and red lights has translated into a boom in traffic citations.

“They’re not giving people ample time to get through intersections,” AAA spokesman Robert Sinclair told the New York Post. “This is supposed to be about safety, not just raising revenue, and that’s what it’s become.”

The city Department of Transportation told the Post that the standard time it sets its yellow lights at is approximately a second for every 10 mph of the speed limit. That translates into three seconds for the standard 30-mph intersection. However, engineers say AAA found that the city’s yellow lights at intersections with cameras where the speed limit is 30 were clocking in as low as 2.53 seconds, the Post reported.

“The red light cameras should be set up given the prevailing rate of speed. The rate of speed that 85% of the vehicles are traveling. If they’re set up for the speed limit that’s not real. That’s not taking into account the reality of the situation and you’re creating a safety problem rather than solving one,” Sinclair told CBS 2 New York.

New York was the first city in the country to install cameras on lights in an effort to catch drivers running red lights. The move was approved by the state Legislature in 1998. Since that time, more than 6 million tickets have been sent out. The New York Post reported that more than a sixth of those citations were issued in 2010. In 2012, 150 intersections equipped with a total of 170 red-light cameras around the city.

The cameras have led to a surge in tickets and revenue for the city. From 2006 to 2010, the camera have generated more than $235 million. The biggest jump in revenue came in 2010, when the city collected $47.2 million form the camera, the New York Post reported.

In 2012, New Jersey temporarily suspended its traffic light program in 21 of 25 municipalities after reports surfaced that 63 of 85 locations in the state had cameras that were not calibrated. The municipalities where the program was stopped were forced to re-certify the timing of its yellow lights, CBS New York reported.

AAA has been pushing for New York to follow the same action as New Jersey and establish timing guidelines for all intersections that have cameras installed. City Council Transportation Committee Chairman James Vacca told The Post he remains concerned that New York is “playing the I gotcha game” with motorists. While he favors the cameras, Vacca told the Post, “I don’t think that enforcement can be fair unless the lights are timed properly.”

FDA Forces Antibacterial Soaps to Prove Health Benefits

For years, makers of antibacterial soaps have been promoting their products as the most effective way to rid your body of bacterial germs. Soap manufacturers will now have to back up those claims as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is launching new legislation that will require the manufacturers to prove that the  antibacterial chemicals that go into these soaps provide more health benefits than risks.

The FDA announced on Monday that it was requiring soap manufacturers to validate that the substances were safe or to remove the products altogether, the New York Times reported. The announcement is being looked at as a major win for health advocates who have been pushing for stricter regulation in the antibacterial chemical industry. Some health advocates have expressed beliefs that the common ingredient in these soaps, triclosan or triclocarban, can scramble hormones in children and promote drug infections, Bloomberg.com reported.

This new proposal by the FDA could have widespread financial impact on the soap industry. According to Bloomberg.com, the new mandate could affect about half of the $900 million in liquid soaps sold each year. New safety standards would impact as many as 2,000 soap products, including major brands such as Henkel AG’s Dial. However, the rules will not apply to hand sanitizers such as Purell, Bloomberg.com noted. The FDA also failed to address how the new regulation would mouthwash, cleaners and cosmetics.

The rule will remain open for public comment for a period of 180 days and would not require makers of the antibacterial soaps to take them off the market right away, the FDA said. The agency has given companies a year to submit data proving that the chemicals are both safe and effective, the New York Times reported. If the companies are unable to prove those two things, the chemicals will need to be removed from the products.

The FDA is citing studies conducted on animals as a reason for its new regulations. These studies indicate that the chemicals can disturb the normal development of the reproductive system and metabolism in animals, and health experts caution that their effects could be the same in humans, according to the New York Times. The agency’s toughest fight may come against the American Cleaning Institute, which cited two-dozen studies that they believe prove the benefits of using antibacterial soap, Bloomberg.com reported.

While the concern over the safety of these products has picked up steam over the past few years, it is hardly a new subject. According to the New York Times, federal regulators started to look more closely at triclosan and triclocarban in the 1970s, and the FDA first created regulations to control them in 1978. However, public health advocates have been frustrated that very little has been done since 1978.

The FDA said that mounting scientific data has led it to re-evaluate whether these chemicals are safe when used over long periods of time, the New York Times reported. The agency also said it has seen no evidence that the chemicals were any more effective in stopping infection than regular soap and water.

Metal Hip Patients Still Know Little About Device Failure and Revision Rates

It has been three years since Johnson & Johnson (J&J) recalled its all-metal ASR hip implant worldwide, but fewer than 10 percent of the 4,500 Indian patients implanted with the device have approached the nation’s redressal agency.

Food and Drug Administration commissioner Mahesh Zagade suggested to the Times of India that the lack of response proves how little Indian citizens know about hip implant procedures or the possible ramifications of surgery. Zagade recommended that non-governmental organizations (NGOs) should take the initiative to educate patients. More Metal Hip Patients Still Know Little About Device Failure and Revision Rates

Plastic Gas Cans more Likely to Explode than Metal cans

Red plastic gasoline containers pose an explosion hazard that many Americans are unaware of, according to a new NBC investigation.

About 20 million gas cans are purchased by Americans each year and more than 100 million of the plastic containers are in circulation in the U.S., according to industry estimates. Lab tests prove that under certain conditions, the mixture of gas vapors inside the containers can explode and cause severe injuries, according to NBC News. More Plastic Gas Cans more Likely to Explode than Metal cans

Under FDA Pressure – 23andMe Will No Longer Provide Health Information

The genetic testing service 23andMe bowed to U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) pressure Thursday, announcing it would stop giving consumers health information while its test undergoes regulatory review.

The FDA sent 23andMe a warning letter two weeks ago saying the genetic test was a medical device that required approval. Anne Wojcicki, the chief executive of 23andMe, said in a statement obtained by the New York Times (Times) Thursday evening that the company remained “firmly committed to fulfilling our long-term mission to help people everywhere have access to their own genetic data and have the ability to use that information to improve their lives.” More Under FDA Pressure – 23andMe Will No Longer Provide Health Information

Intuitive Surgical Warns of Potential Friction Buildup in da Vinci Surgical Robot

Intuitive Surgical warned doctors this week that friction, in certain circumstances, can form in the arms of some of its $1.5 million da Vinci Surgical System robots, which likely would cause the unit to stall. This marks the second warning from the company about its surgical robot in a month.

Intuitive issued an “urgent medical device recall” November 11 alerting customers to the problem, which impacts 1,386 systems worldwide. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said the stalling can occur during a sudden “catch-up” if the surgeon pushes through the friction-caused resistance, according to Bloomberg News. More Intuitive Surgical Warns of Potential Friction Buildup in da Vinci Surgical Robot