General Motors Recalls Additional 3.16 Million Vehicles

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Yesterday, General Motors announced a recall of 3.16 million additional vehicles, which brings the total number of vehicles recalled this year in North American to approximately 20 million.

The new recall will bring in vehicle models from the years 2000 through 2014 in order to replace the ignition keys. The current keys and ignition switch may cause the key to turn when the vehicle is jostled by railroad tracks, potholes, or other obstacles.

Though this recall sounds similar to past recalls which are the subject of multiple lawsuits, GM says that this switch problem is different than the faulty ignition switch problems with the Chevy Cobalt.

The makes and models of the newly recalled vehicles are:

  • Buick Lacrosse, 2005-2009
  • Chevrolet Impala, 2006-2014
  • Cadillac Deville, 2000–2005
  • Cadillac DTS, 2004–2011
  • Buick Lucerne, 2006–2011
  • Buick Regal LS & GS, 2004–2005
  • Chevy Monte Carlo, 2006–2008

Vehicles affected by the recall should be taken to a General Motors dealership for repairs. For more information on the GM recalls, visit Phillips Law Group’s GM Timeline page.

If you believe that a faulty vehicle part caused your accident, contact Phillips Law Group today at (800) 706-3000. 

Pradaxa Blood Thinner Lawsuits Settled for $650 Million

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The German pharmaceutical company which developed and marketed Pradaxa has agreed to settle almost 4,000 lawsuits over the blood thinner for a total of $650 million dollars. 

Pradaxa is accused of causing over 500 deaths and more than 3,000 bleeding-related complications. The $650 million settlement should give each claimant an average of $162,500. 

The plaintiffs in the Pradaxa lawsuits allege that the drugmaker was aware of problems with bleeding-related complications before the drug was submitted for FDA approval in 2010. After it passed the FDA process, patients and doctors reported 3,781 bleeding side effects and 542 deaths associated with the drug in 2011. 

The FDA approved Pradaxa as a drug similar to Coumadin, or warfarin, meant for preventing strokes caused by blood clots. Because of the mechanism of these types of drugs, some risks of bleeding complications are inevitable. However, the plaintiffs alleged that Pradaxa could cause a patient to bleed to death with no way to control or stop the medication. In fact, a Pradaxa “antidote” was developed shortly after the drug was approved, and has earned Boehringer an additional billion dollars in sales. 

The news of the settlement came shortly after evidence emerged revealing that Boehringer had concealed 22 serious bleeding complications during the FDA approval process. Additionally, the judge presiding over 2,500 of the Pradexa complaints handed down almost a million dollars’ worth of sanctions against the pharmaceutical company after it failed to preserve “countless” important records on the development and manufacturing of the drug. 

These sanctions may have influenced the drug company’s decision to settle. Legal observers also note that Boehringer may be attempting to avoid even greater sanctions, like those handed down to other pharmaceutical companies for destroying records.  The company maintains that it has committed no wrongdoing, and is simply settling the case to avoid prolonged litigation expenses. 

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President Obama Vows to Investigate Phoenix VA Hospital

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The President briefed the country Wednesday about the growing controversy centered around the Phoenix VA Hospital.

For the past month, allegations have been swirling accusing the Phoenix VA of widespread impropriety and maintaining secret waiting lists which kept veterans waiting months for treatment. At least 40 veterans are believed to have died while languishing on a hidden waiting list.

President Obama addressed reporters on Wednesday, saying “When I heard allegations of misconduct — any misconduct, whether it's allegations of VA staff covering up long wait times or cooking the books — I will not stand for it, not as commander in chief, but also not as an American,"

Controversy Grows

At least 26 VA facilities nationwide are being investigated for their patient practices.  The Phoenix VA Hospital, where the controversy first erupted, faces some of the most egregious accusations.

To hide a large backlog in patients waiting to be seen, the Phoenix VA developed a secret waiting list for patients which was different than the reports the VA provided to Washington.

According to several whistleblowers, when a veteran would come to the Phoenix VA Hospital seeking treatment, VA employees would make him or her an appointment on their computer system, but would not save it. Instead, a copy of the appointment computer screen was printed out, and the electronic information was deleted. The information from the hard copy paper printout was then used to place the veteran on the secret list, where he or she might say for several months or even years until an appointment could be made. Once an appointment was made for the veteran, his or her information was re-entered into the computer shortly before the date of the appointment and saved—making it appear that the veteran had only waited a few days from the time he or she sought an appointment to the time that he or she actually saw a physician. Whistleblowers estimate that at least 1,400 to 1,600 veterans are currently on this secret list.

Email communications obtained by CNN show that the hospital’s top management, including Phoenix VA Hospital Director Sharon Helman, were well-aware of the practice and even defended its use to VA employees.

Washington Investigates

A top white house aide is heading to Phoenix to analyze the situation. All records, secret or not, have been ordered to be preserved for the official review, though VA Secretary Eric Shinseki has acknowledged that some notes and records were already destroyed.

In addition, the House of Representatives has passed the VA Management Accountability Act, meant to curb some of these abuses. It is not yet known if the Senate will also pass this Act.

As for Phoenix VA Director Sharon Helman, she was placed on leave after these allegations surfaced. She was also ordered to repay the nearly $10,000 she received in bonus pay from the federal government.

It remains to be seen how these accusations will affect veterans’ health care in the near future or in the long term. One thing is for certain, however: Our veterans deserve better.  

General Motors' Shocking Advice to Employees

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General Motors reached a settlement with the Department of Transportation on Friday regarding its massive recall of millions of vehicles with defective ignition switches, and agreed to pay a the government a fine of $35 million.  The consent order which finalized this agreement included several shocking exhibits which provide insight into GM's company culture during the production of its faulty ignition switches. Attached to the consent order were copies of multiple slides, which were part of a presentation by GM managers to company employees. This presentation instructed GM employees on how to speak and write about defects in the automaker's vehicles.

GM advised its employees that “judgment words,” including speculations, opinions, or words with emotional connotations should not be used when describing GM products. Employees were advised that they should not use any words which could reflect badly on the company if their comments were made public or became part of a lawsuit.  

For example, instead of saying that a vehicle was defective, employees could say that the vehicle “does not perform to design.” The word “problem” could be softened by using terms like issue, condition, or matter instead. Phrases like “above or below expectations,” could substitute for harsher words like “good,” or “bad.”

In addition to providing employees advice about substitutions in their language,  GM employees also received a long list of words which should never be used when speaking about General Motors products. While some of these words seem to be relatively innocuous, like “bad,” “defect,” “safety,” and “serious,” others are much more incriminating. GM employees were advised not to use words conveying extreme emotions or events, like “disemboweling,” “Kevorkianesque,” “Corvair-like,” “rolling sarcophagus,” “Hindenburg,” and “apocalyptic.”

One has to wonder what kind of language GM employees were using to describe the automaker’s vehicles before this presentation.

A copy of the consent order and attached exhibits containing the slideshow can be found at the Wall Street Journal’s website,

Arizona Supreme Court Clarifies Marijuana DUI Rules

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As states around the country grapple with the effects of legalized marijuana use, Arizona’s Supreme Court took the opportunity to clarify ambiguities in the state’s statutes.  The Court held that drivers could only be arrested for DUIs if they were actually impaired by marijuana use, not solely because there were remnants of marijuana chemicals in their bloodstream.

How Marijuana Is Measured In Drivers

Previously, Arizona drivers could be arrested and charged with driving under the influence of marijuana if urine or blood tests revealed the presence of any marijuana metabolites. A metabolite is formed by the body during the process of degrading and eliminating a drug.  Different types of metabolites can indicate a person’s present intoxication, or could indicate that a person had used a certain drug in the past several days or weeks.

Marijuana use produces two main types of metabolites: one which causes impairment, and one which does not. The metabolite which does not cause impairment can be found in the bloodstream for several days or even several weeks after use.  

Blood tests by the Arizona state police did not distinguish between any types of metabolites.  If either type of metabolite was found, a driver could be arrested for DUI, even if he or she had not used marijuana for several days.

Arizona Supreme Court Ruling

The Arizona case in front of the Supreme Court came from a man who was stopped for speeding, and during the course of the conversation acknowledged smoking marijuana the previous night. The police had his blood drawn, which revealed marijuana metabolites, but not the kind which would cause impairment. He was arrested, charged, and convicted of driving under the influence of marijuana.

A state Court of Appeals upheld his conviction, and ruled that authorities could prosecute marijuana smokers for DUI even when there is no evidence of impairment. The man appealed this ruling to Arizona’s Supreme Court, which held the opposite.

The Arizona Supreme Court rejected the State’s argument that the presence of any metabolites would be sufficient for an arrest. The Court explained that while Arizona’s statutes make it illegal for a driver to be impaired by marijuana, the presence of a non-psychoactive compound in the blood does not constitute impairment under the law. Allowing arrests without a distinction as to which metabolites cause impairments and which do not would lead to “absurd results.”

Accordingly, the Supreme Court decided that a person cannot be prosecuted for driving under the influence unless that person is impaired at the time of the stop.

Impact on Other States         

Twenty-one states have allowed medical marijuana use, while two states have allowed recreational use. The laws regarding what constitutes driving under the influence in these states vary wildly. Some states, like Arizona after this recent decision, require a driver to be impaired at the time of operation. Others have zero tolerance for the presence of any marijuana metabolites in a person’s system, while still others have limits for the amount of active marijuana in a person’s system (similar to .08 laws for alcohol use).

Unlike alcohol, no comparable marijuana test exists which police can perform at the time a person is stopped. While blood and urine tests do measure the levels of THC in a person’s system, these tests cannot be performed at the roadside like a Breathalyzer. Under Arizona’s new rules, police will need to rely on their observations and roadside sobriety tests to determine if a driver is impaired.

Arizona’s Supreme Court decision may affect the decisions of other courts around the country. Last year, Michigan’s Supreme Court also determined that a person must be impaired in order to be charged with DUI. It remains to be seen what will happen as the country’s attitudes towards marijuana use change, but it is likely that more legislation and court decisions will come soon.

If you have been injured by an impaired driver, contact Phillips Law Group at (800) 706-3000. Our experienced personal injury and auto accident attorneys will fight to get you the compensation you deserve after an auto accident.

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