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October 01, 1997 10:30 PM
Manville Sued Tobacco Industry

 The Trustees of the Manville Personal Injury Trust and H.K. Porter Co. targeted the tobacco industry in two separate lawsuits demanding contribution and indemnity for personal injury suits by asbestos claimants who were also smokers. The complaints are the first such actions by an insolvent manufacturer or a related claims trust. Recent weeks have seen the tobacco industry face similar lawsuits from solvent manufacturers of asbestos-containing products, such as Owens Corning, Fibreboard Corp. and Raymark Industries Inc. Both suits were filed in federal court in Brooklyn, NY 

The Manville Trustees' suit names the Big Six American tobacco manufacturers and Brown & Williamson parent B.A.T. Industries PLC, seeking reimbursement of all past payments, and all payments due, "to individuals whose asbestos disease or illness was caused in whole or in part, or was increased in severity, by the smoking-related illness which the Defendants had caused." The Trustees alleged that the overwhelming scientific/medical evidence demonstrates that smoking is "possibly the predominant factor" in the development of lung cancer in individuals exposed to asbestos. 

The complaint cites the 1985 Surgeon General's report that showed the lung cancer risk of asbestos workers to be five times higher than for workers in other industries. The trustees also asserted that other asbestos-linked illnesses -- laryngeal and esophageal cancer, asbestosis and pleural thickening -- "can be caused or contributed to by cigarette smoking." 

It also states that the tobacco industry "intentionally conspired to mislead, deceive and confuse the public and the government" with respect to that scientific evidence, and that evidence of the defendants' conspiratorial conduct "has only recently come to light through the release of internal tobacco industry documents, which reveal an aggressive campaign of disinformation and deceit, prepared for the purpose of addicting the public to cigarettes." 

The Manville Trust, formed in 1988 pursuant to the bankruptcy reorganization of Johns-Manville Corp., has paid out $1.7 billion to date in settlement of asbestos personal injury liabilities. Since the judicial approval of the Trust's restructuring in 1995, the Trust only pays 10% of the liquidated value of a claim. The 138,000 claimants whose claims have since been liquidated "have not received the remaining ninety percent of the value of their claims -- approximately $6.2 billion -- nor are they ever likely to receive such payment unless Defendants pay their fair share," the Trustees asserted. The Trust presently has some 150,000 unsettled claims before it, and the Trustees estimate that it may receive another 350,000 in the future. 

Porter Seeks Tobacco Money 

In H.K. Porter v. B.A.T., B.A.T. Industries Inc., R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., Philip Morris Inc. and others were sued by H.K. Porter Co. Inc., which had been forced to seek Chapter 11 protection in Pennsylvania federal court because of its asbestos liabilities. Porter is seeking reimbursement "for all past sums paid by H.K. Porter to individuals whose asbestos disease or illness was caused in whole or in part, or was increased in severity, by the smoking-related illness which the defendants caused."

The Porter action states that the tobacco industry’s products are unreasonably dangerous and contributed to the injuries of asbestos claimants by causing lung cancer, irreversible chromosomal changes, ciliotoxicity and ciliostasis, decline in immunocompetence, dyspnea and other harms. The plaintiff also contended that the defendants knew or should have known that such results would occur when the products were used as intended. 

Porter states that the tobacco companies "have manipulated not only the public, but the scientific community and government regulators, by the use of lies and suppression of the truth concerning the nature and content of their products and the cancer-causing effect of the products." 

As this litigation develops we will keep you advised of the impact it has on other asbestos litigation claims now pending. 

Diet Drug Litigation: Fen-Phen / Redux 

Approximately 6 million Americans have been users of diet drugs. This past summer, doctors at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, reported a link between serious heart valve damage and use of the popular "miracle" diet drug regimen called fen-phen. Fenfluramine (the "fen" in fen-phen)-also known as Pondimin-and that drug's pharmaceutical cousin, dexfenfluramine-sold as Redux-were taken off the shelves in September. Unfortunately, the recall has come too late for the hundreds and possibly thousands of people who have already been injured by the drugs. 

The history of how fen-phen and Redux came to be used by an estimated 6 million Americans is noteworthy. It is a story of dangerous and potentially deadly practices among the manufacturing, medical, and weight-loss industries. Fenfluramine and the other drug that makes up the fen-phen regimen, phentermine, have been on the market for over twenty years. Fenfluramine is an appetite suppressant that was sold by A.H. Robins, Inc., and Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories Co., divisions of American Home Products Corp. Phentermine is a type of amphetamine that has been sold under many names and made by many companies. 

Fenfluramine is considered to cause weight loss by increasing the levels of the brain chemical serotonin, which the suppresses appetite. Phentermine, which acts on another brain chemical, dopamine, increases the body's metabolism and is considered to have a role in reducing minor side effects caused by fenfluramine, such as drowsiness. Both drugs were approved by the FDA as short-term diet aids, but they were never approved by it for use together as part of a diet concoction. 

The fen-phen fad started in 1992 after the publication of a single article in an obscure medical journal indicating weight loss when both drugs were taken. After the article was published, demand for the drugs surged, and some doctors began to prescribe fen-phen for people who were not substantially overweight and therefore not at risk of the diseases associated with morbid obesity. Many doctors, including some associated with weight-loss clinics, prescribed fen-phen to people who simply wanted to shed a few pounds, a so-called cosmetic use. 

In 1995, the FDA was asked to approve the sale of a new diet drug-dexfenfluramine, or Redux. Developed by Interneuron Pharmaceuticals Inc., a Massachusetts company, Redux is a purified form of fenfluramine. FDA approval was difficult because of concerns about the drug's safety. For a number of years, reports had linked fenfluramine use with primary pulmonary hypertension (PPH), a rare (at least until use of the drug became widespread) but potentially fatal cardiopulmonary disease about which little was known. The committee recommended approval by a 6-5 vote. In April 1996 Redux went on the market. In July 1997 The Mayo Clinic reported they found 24 cases of heart valve damage in fen-phen users (all women). The women in the Mayo study had used fen-phen for an average of 12 months. The women who had valve damage had similar signs and symptoms: murmur, dyspnea, edema, palpitations, congestive heart failure, chest pain, and in one case, supraventricular tachycardia. The drug was subsequently recalled. 

It has been reported that patients who took fen-phen and Redux may have also sustained brain injuries. The neurotoxic effects of fenfluramine drugs were highlighted last August in an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). 

This is challenging litigation and the Courts have yet to certify the suits filed for class action status. Individual suits are being filed throughout the United States. 

Report Medicare & Medicaid Fraud — REWARD 

The government will pay you as much as 25% of the amount it recovers through the successful prosecution of Medicare and Medicaid fraud cases. The government does this because of the staggering sums fraud costs American taxpayers, and because much of this abuse can’t be detected without the help of health care workers and other citizens who have inside information about cheating. 

Do you know any hospitals, nursing homes, medical clinics, labs, home health care businesses, companies or individuals that have been involved in filing fraudulent claims for Medicare or Medicaid? 

Help expose this fraud and bring the cheaters to justice. Don’t remain silent while our national health care system is ripped off by a few crooks! It’s good citizenship to report abuses, and the government will reward you for your assistance. Also, the law protects the jobs of citizens who blow the whistle on cheaters. 

For a free confidential evaluation, please call the Fraud Litigation Unit at our office. We’re part of a team committed to ending taxpayer abuse in Medicare and Medicaid expenses. Call Toll Free: 1-888-696-7988. Just call us. We’ll handle the rest. 

Latex Glove Litigation 

It has been estimated that 8 percent of the nation’s 7 million health care workers have latex allergies that can cause problems from itching and hives to more serious ones such as difficulty breathing and life-threatening shock. Some experts now say that thousands of patients are at risk also. Many patients who undergo multiple surgeries, particularly as children, are at risk. It has been reported that between 40 percent and 65 percent of spina bifida patients have latex allergies. 

Latex powder was used in gloves in order to make it easier to for health care workers to pull them on. However, scientists now report that the latex powder spreads life-threatening latex allergies. 

Last year the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) received over 305 reports of serious reactions to latex gloves—powdered and powder-free. In Oregon there was an effort to ban the latex powdered gloves after a nurse died. 

Latex gloves are used mostly by health care workers to protect against such viruses as AIDS. They are also used by restaurant workers, janitors, police and firefighters. 

The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology recently urged an end to powdered glove use entirely. They have reported the condition as an "epidemic disease." Researchers indicate that the use of cornstarch powder exacerbates the problem because the powder absorbs latex proteins and emits them into the air as the gloves are pulled off. Public Citizen Health Research Group has called latex gloves "…a serious, unnecessary menace in hospitals and other health care facilities all over the country." 

As long ago as 1971 the FDA issued a warning to surgeons to wash their hands after the use of the gloves. In September 1997 the FDA ordered every latex-containing medical product to carry an allergy warning label. The FDA has been urged to ban the use of latex gloves entirely. 

Many lawsuits have been filed by injured workers against the manufacturers of latex gloves. We are currently involved in this litigation. If you have any questions concerning latex glove litigation we encourage you to call our office for assistance Also, visit our latex litigation master directory for current information. 

[This lawsuit was ultimately tried and decided against Manville]

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