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November 2008 Archives

WILL DRACONIAN MTA BUDGET CUTS AFFECT PASSENGER SAFETY?

New York City transit passengers have already been shocked by a potential increase in subway/bus fares by as much as 23%. What will we get for paying an astronomically higher amount per ride? Much worse service and dangerous subway stations. The MTA is planning massive budget cuts to close a $900 Billion budget shortfall. Some of the potential cuts were detailed by the Daily News. Station safety is predicated on having enough personnel in place to keep subway entrances and platforms free from dangerous conditions and litter. If the MTA cuts back on these positions the conditions of subway stations will worsen. Reductions in subway staff can also increase crime rates in subway systems.

NEW YORK CITY CLAIMS RIDER OF CYCLONE SHOULD HAVE KNOWN RIDE WOULD KILL HIM

The City, in defending against a lawsuit brought by the family of a San Francisco musician who died after riding the Cyclone last year, is claiming that Keith Shirasawa should have known that the roller coaster was potentially fatal. While riding the Cyclone on his birthday in July 2007, 53-year-old Keith Shirasawa fractured three neck vertebrae and died four days later after complications from surgery. His lawyers contend that the Parks Department is at fault for not regularly inspecting the landmark ride. But the city claims that "any and all risks, hazards, defects and dangers to the extent alleged are of an open, obvious, apparent and inherent nature known and should have been known to [Shirasawa]," according to court papers obtained by the Daily News.

NEW YORK COURTS GRANT LOST WAGES TO UNDOCUMENTED WORKERS

Recently, the Second and Third Departments of the Appellate Division have issued decisions which narrow the application of Hoffman Plastic Compounds v. National Labor Relations Bd., 535 US 137 [2002], a 2002 United States Supreme Court decision which held that an undocumented worker who had been wrongfully terminated for participating in union activities could not recover back pay because he had used fraudulent documents to obtain his employment.

NEW YORK CITY CRANE OPERATORS FINED AFTER TRAGIC ACCIDENT

Newsday is reporting that two New York City crane operators have been fined $50,000 and have had their licenses suspended after a September accident that killed a construction worker. The city stated that Christopher Van Duyne and James Van Duyne cut a guardrail on a platform attached to a tower crane that was being taken down at a midtown Manhattan construction site. The men were helping to dismantle the crane at the site of a residential tower. A worker at the site, Anthony Esposito, fell more than 40 stories from the platform and was killed. The city already announced a suspension of the license of another worker who said he was taking a break when the accident happened.

NEW YORK'S CHIEF JUDGE GIVES FAREWELL ADDRESS

Having reached age 70 earlier this year, Chief Judith S. Kaye must, under New York law, retire by December 31st. Yesterday, Judge Kaye gave what she called her "swan song" speech (full text available at http://nycourts.gov/). The New York Times reports that, although Judge Kaye praised Hon. Jonathan Lippman (whom she appointed Chief Administrative Judge of New York State in 1996), she did not endorse a successor. As the Times notes, Judge Kaye was the first woman appointed to be chief judge and is the longest-serving chief judge in New York history.

HOUSING PROJECT ELEVATORS BREAK DOWN AGAIN

Despite constant media attention, there continue to be problems with elevators in housing projects.  The Daily News reported yesterday that elevators in the Mott Haven Houses in the Bronx felt trapped in their apartments by inoperable elevators.  As we mentioned last week the City Council has demanded that the New York City Housing Authority do something to stop the constant breakdown of elevators.

FDA DOES NOT INSPECT CHINESE FACTORIES THAT PRODUCE DRUG PRODUCTS SHIPPED TO US

I just came across this New York Times article via TortsProf Blog.  It talks about how China has become a major player in the production of over-the-counter and prescription drugs.  Lately, China has been plagued by non-stop reports of incidents of contamination from toys to baby food.  The most horrifying example was when 4 babies were killed and 53,000 sickened when the chemical melamine was found in baby formula.  Could this type of contamination find its way into drugs sent to the United States?  Here is the money quote from the article:

PRE-EMPTION REDUX

The New York Times has a cautionary editorial (hat-tip TortDeform) on the Wyeth pre-emption case we addressed last week.  As we discussed, a Supreme Court decision applying the doctrine of pre-emption to FDA-approved drugs would bar injured plaintiffs from sucessfully suing the producer of an FDA-approved drug for any harm caused by that drug.  In the editorial, the Times warns that the effects of this application would be far-reaching: 

THE COLLAPSING CRANE EPIDEMIC GOES GLOBAL

New York has had the worst of it, but collapsing cranes have caused catastrophic injuries all over the world in the recent global building boom.  The Associated Press reports that Dubai is the latest city to experience a collapsing crane.  Luckily, there were no reported injuries.

27 CONSTRUCTION WORKERS HAVE DIED THIS YEAR ON THE JOB IN NEW YORK CITY

WNYC.org has a two part series (found via Brownstoner.com) analyzing one such accident in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn.  Jose Palacios, a Mexican immigrant, died when the scaffold beneath him collapsed at a luxury condo in Clinton Hill. He worked on a day when the winds climbed to 30 miles an hour. Faulty equipment was the likely cause of the accident.  "They had the correct ties, and for whatever reason, they didn't have the tool -- the correct tool to install those ties," said OSHA's Richard Mendelson.  Of course the developer blames the workers for not listening to instructions.  This is a common defense in most construction accident cases.

CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY COMPLAINS ABOUT INCREASED REGULATION

CNN has an article about construction industry gripes with all the new regulation that has resulted from the shocking number of crane accidents that have occurred in the last year.  If you dig into the article you will note that the Federal regulations have not been updated in 40 years.  This is newsworthy, but not because the construction industry is upset.  The lack of regulation of this industry is an obvious cause of the numerous deaths that have occurred across the country.  As we mentioned recently, crane accidents in New York City alone have resulted in 19 deaths this year. 

NEW YORK CITY PRIEST RUNS MARATHON TO HONOR CONSTRUCTION WORKERS

The AFL-CIO Now Blog reports that Rev. Brian Jordan ran in the New York Marathon to honor the 19 construction workers killed on the job this year.  The staggering number of construction injuries this year highlights the importance of safety standards and training at construction sites.  Rev. Jordan noted that nonunion workers are far more likely to be injured on a worksite. The AFL-CIO has also reported that one in five Latino construction workers are injured or killed on the job.

SUPREME COURT HEARD ARGUMENT TODAY ON CRITICAL PRESCRIPTION DRUG PRE-EMPTION CASE

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear argument today on one of the most important cases in recent history to be heard on the rights consumers. The case of Wyeth v. Levine will take up the issue of pre-emption of FDA approved prescription drugs. The pharmaceutical industry has been pushing this doctrine for years. The basic argument is that oncethe FDA has approved a drug, an injured plaintiff cannot sue the producer of the drug for any harm caused by that drug. When one considers the history of the FDA and its failure to adequately evaluate drugs before releasing them to the market, it is clear that the consequences of pre-emption for the general public are quite severe. The history of adverse side effects from prescription drugs is so long and so tragic, it is beyond the pale that the pre-emption doctrine is being considered. The reason consumer groups are so anxious about this case is the Supreme Court's recent decision upholding pre-emption for medical devices approved by the FDA in Reigel v. Medtronic.

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