The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced on Wednesday that it would implement a full, nationwide recall of the popular over-the-counter heartburn medication, Zantac, over concerns that it could potentially introduce a cancer-causing compound into those who take it. If you or a loved one has used Zantac in the past and subsequently developed cancer, contact a personal injury attorney from the Cambridge firm of Altman & Altman LLP right away to get started on a claim.

You may be eligible to receive financial compensation through a class action lawsuit or other legal action against drug manufacturers, or other negligent third parties who allowed the production or sale of Zantac to continue despite independent lab tests showing the possible dangerousness of using Zantac.

What made the FDA recall Zantac?

Up until this week when the news broke, the FDA had been hesitant to respond to claims from independent laboratories that Zantac was potentially dangerous. Independent tests had demonstrated that there was a possibility that Zantac broke down into a compound known as NDMA (N-nitrosodimethylamine), which is a likely carcinogenic (meaning cancer causing) contaminant.

The tests revealed the creation of NDMA could occur inside of the patient’s digestive system once the medicine was ingested. One alarming study showed that just one Zantac tablet could potentially create 3 million nanograms of NDMA – when the recommended maximum amount of NDMA that a human should absorb in a day, according to the FDA, is just 96 nanograms.

Despite these alarming tests, the FDA only decided to issue a nationwide recall of all Zantac products once their independent investigation into the popular drug showed that NDMA production could occur if the medicine was stored at a higher-than-normal temperature. In their statements to press, they make the claim that they only pulled the medicine out of an abundance of caution.

How dangerous is NDMA?

NDMA is presumed carcinogenic due to its cancer-causing qualities in laboratory experiments on mice. It has been observed to be linked to various cancers, including liver, intestinal, esophageal, stomach, colorectal and, in more limited capacities, it has been linked to prostate cancer, pancreatic cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, multiple myeloma and leukemia.

Claims and lawsuits against Zantac for its presumed role in the causation of cancer are already in motion, but none have come to a settlement or award yet. With the announcement of the full, nationwide recall, it is likely much more attention will be paid to this issue and more claims will likely begin to pile up. Continue reading

Altman & Altman LLP is actively reviewing claims regarding cases of nicotine addiction that have occurred due to the widespread use of Juul brand vaporizers. Specifically, we are pursuing claims from individuals who used a Juul vaporizer before they were 18 years of age, and used it prior to November 2018.

Juul vaporizers (also known as vapes and e-cigarettes) have long been marketed as a “safer” alternative to traditional cigarettes. They have utilized the advertising slogan “Make the Switch,” meaning they intend to be a replacement for nicotine-addicted individuals who are either trying to quit nicotine entirely or are looking for a supposedly less harmful way to consume nicotine. With a streamlined, sleek appearance about the size of a standard USB flash drive, and a simple two-piece design with replaceable nicotine-laden oil cartridges, Juuls have become incredibly popular.

Juul may be specifically targeted for children to use

Studies have revealed that Juuls are not only popular with adults. Children under the age of 18 regularly use Juuls in alarming numbers – as data shows that about 3.6 million kids under the age of 18 tried an e-cigarette device at least once in 2018, a 78 percent increase over the prior year.

Combine this knowledge with the fact that Juul pods contain a higher concentration of nicotine than other e-cigarettes, and that children are more susceptible to developing addictions, and what you’re left with is a ripe recipe for children to become nicotine dependent very quickly.

Not only has Juul been criticized for potentially exposing children to a harmful product without doing much to prevent them from accessing it – the company has also come under scrutiny for their development of flavored pods that would also appeal to children; such as mint and berry flavors.

Juul and “popcorn lung”

Juul vaporizers and other electronic cigarette products like them contain a chemical called diacetyl, an additive that supposedly makes the heated vapor less harsh and smoother when inhaled. Diacetyl is also a component added to movie theater popcorn butter to give it that well-known buttery flavor. The chemical is approved by the FDA for consumption as a food product.

However, overexposure to vaporized diacetyl may cause “popcorn lung,” which causes a constriction of the airways within the lungs to the point of total closure – which may lead to further respiratory complications including total lung collapse, a potentially fatal health complication. Continue reading

If you lived, owned property or owned a business in Lawrence, Andover or North Andover, Massachusetts on September 13, 2018, you may be entitled to some of a $143 million settlement between the former Columbia Gas company, which was responsible for a series of explosions that rocked those communities and directly caused one death. If you are interested in applying for settlement money, contact an attorney from Altman & Altman LLP right away.

Columbia Gas pleads guilty, pays historic fine

On September 13, 2018, over-pressured gas lines forced high-pressure gas to flood into the distribution systems of various Columbia Gas customers’ neighborhoods, which eventually led to a series of large explosions.

An investigation revealed that the company failed to account for critical pressure sensors while replacing old cast iron pipes in Lawrence. It also showed the company was aware that its lackadaisical actions could potentially cause fires and explosions, but continued to cut corners anyways. They also didn’t keep adequate records and hired inexperienced, unfit workers for jobs.

After a series of court proceedings, Columbia Gas has now formally admitted guilt to charges that it violated the federal Pipeline Safety Act, which directly led to a large number of explosions that damaged dozens of homes and businesses and personal property. The company, as a result, will have to pay the largest criminal fine ever imposed for breaking such a law – $53 million.

In total, the class action lawsuit that resulted from the incident amassed to $143 million between Columbia Gas and the thousands of individuals affected by their reckless negligence. Some of that will have to go to court and legal fees ($26.1 million), but a large portion of money is available to those who were directly or indirectly affected.

Columbia Gas, as a result of the penalty, will no longer exist. Their parent company, NiSource Inc., was forced to sell the business, which was bought recently by Eversource. Any profits from the sale went to the federal government. The final result of the process, as proclaimed by U.S. attorneys, was a resounding message to public utilities companies that putting profits over the safety of their customers will result in severe punishments and consequences.

How to access the settlement money

Accessing money from a class action settlement – even when you have a solid claim to receive that money – is anything but a straightforward process. To ensure that you are getting everything that you are entitled to receive, the best course of action is to consult with an experienced attorney well versed in navigating class action settlements.

Attorneys at Altman & Altman LLP will be able to assess how you were affected and figure out how much money you should be entitled to, and then work with you on the process of filing paperwork to obtain the settlement money. Our attorneys will be with you every step of the way to ensure that no step is forgotten and no mistakes are made, which could potentially jeopardize you receiving your settlement money to the degree that you’re entitled to or affect the timing in which you receive the money. Continue reading

It’s hard to imagine something more tragic than the loss of a life that had only just begun – but those who have experienced the tragedy of a college student committing suicide know the pain and emotional trauma that follows all too well. Even worse, sometimes clear signs are missed that could have helped or potentially saved the young person’s life. If you believe there were extenuating factors surrounding the suicide of a loved one, contact an attorney from Altman & Altman LLP to investigate right away.

Young adult suicide rates alarmingly high

According to the American College Health Association, suicide rates for young adults aged 15-24 has tripled since the 1950s – with suicide being the second most common cause of death among college students. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention, too, reports it as the second leading cause of death for people between the age of 10 and 24. A study by the Harvard University Medical School found that as many as 20 percent of college students in the U.S. reported having suicidal thoughts in the course of one year.

There is not an empirically accepted reason for why this is, as much research still being conducted, but factors may include the fact that college students are not only removed from their support networks for the first time in their lives, they are also likely under the most pressure to succeed in their lives as well. They are tasked with excelling in school while maintaining a social life on their own, all with the knowledge that they should have a good idea of what they want to do for work for the rest of their lives within the four-year window of schooling.

If a student already has undiagnosed mental issues or other mental problems – like a traumatic history or drug addictions – that make depression or suicidal thoughts more likely, it can create a perfect atmosphere for those tragic thoughts to take root and grow.

Many colleges have robust mental health facilities and take caution to train staff to look out for the signs of depression and anxiety – which can lead to suicide. Other campuses, however, are not so progressive in looking out for their students. Even when universities try to prevent such tragedies from occurring, it can still happen anywhere. Rowan University in New Jersey recently experienced three suicides in the span of just two months, which rocked the campus and prompted them to take steps to improve mental health counseling access and even the opening of a full-time pet therapy center. Continue reading

An airplane may seem like an unlikely place for sexual harassment or groping to occur. You are surrounded by people, flight attendants regularly patrol the aisle and it would seem difficult for a perpetrator to believe they could get away with such a blatant, criminal act. However, recent news shows this is unfortunately wishful thinking, and such activity does occur in our skies every year. If you or a loved one were sexually harassed or assaulted on a plane, contact an attorney from Altman & Altman LLP right away to get started on your case.

According to the FBI, there were 38 cases of in-flight sexual assault between 2013 and 2014, which increased to 63 cases between 2016 and 2017, according to an advisory that was published by the FBI in 2018.

Most recently, a U.S. Army veteran reported that she was groped while relaxing during a late-night flight in which the cabin was darkened for the passengers to get some sleep. When she alerted a flight attendant, she was reportedly simply told to return to her seat. Another passenger had a similar experience, ABC News reported recently.

Those two passengers’ experiences are now the basis of a first of its kind class action lawsuit against Frontier Airlines, the airline company on which the assaults allegedly occurred. The suit claims that Frontier employees “fail[ed] to have and/or follow policies and procedures to prevent, report and respond to sexual assault of its passengers on its flights.”

Although the problem of in-flight sexual assault incidents – most commonly incidents of groping – is well established, the suit makes the case that airlines are not doing enough to prevent them from occurring or, at the least, not doing enough to train staff in the event that such an event occurs. The attorneys from this class action suit allege that airlines handle these cases in “piecemeal fashion,” meaning that there is no uniform way in which they are dealt with or trained for.

In this case, the U.S. Army veteran who was allegedly assaulted reported not being allowed to move away to a different seat further away from the person she just said assaulted her. Additionally, the flight attendant apparently failed to report the incident to their superiors or request law enforcement officials to be standing by to take a report of the occurrence and question the accuser and accused, nor did the airline attempt to question any potential witnesses about what occurred.

The veteran told the pilots of the occurrence, who did alert local law enforcement and TSA agents, and she ultimately contacted the FBI – but no charges were filed as a result. She said the incident “humiliated” her and that she “went to the people who I thought would make it alright and they didn’t.” Continue reading

A cruise should be a relaxing, carefree getaway from the stress of daily life. Unfortunately, some cruise ship companies have gotten into hot water in the past for failing to adequately maintain their amenities and keep their guests’ health at the center of their efforts. If you experienced unacceptable conditions on a cruise ship – such as a bed bug infestation or if you contracted an illness – contact the personal injury attorneys at the Cambridge firm of Altman & Altman LLP right away.

What happened on your cruise?

There is no shortage of horror stories that have emerged over the years as a result of poor conditions on cruise ships. Bacteria born in onboard hot tubs and whirpools have given people horribly rashes and skin afflictions; foodborne illnesses occur in cruise ship food every year; and unsanitary conditions within cruise ship bedrooms and bathrooms are also commonly reported.

However, a recent story that emerged is likely to make your skin crawl – as an actress with a role in the Netflix film “Marriage Story” made headlines when she filed a federal lawsuit against Princess Cruise Lines after discovering she had been given a room infested with bed bugs. She is seeking at least $75,000 on charges of negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress and battery, CNN reports.

While the cruise line maintains that its cleaning attendants are trained in identifying signs of bed bugs and inspect each room to ensure they haven’t taken residence, clearly they are not infallible or incapable of having a negligent member on staff. They have since said that no evidence of bed bugs were found upon an investigation.

This contradicts with video evidence taken by the actress and her husband, which allegedly showed tiny bugs scurrying back and forth on the sheets of the bed. The couple also allegedly showed their bites in images that were shared by their law firm. They claim the episode caused “pain, discomfort, annoyance sleeplessness, inconvenience, humiliation, anxiety and emotional distress.”

On top of the experience with bed bugs, the plaintiffs allege that it took them multiple requests before they were granted access to a different room, which prolonged the distressful experience.

You have a right to a clean space to sleep

When you book an experience like a cruise, you do so with certain expectations in mind. One of those expectations is that you will have access to a safe, clean space to sleep at night. The presence of pests like bed bugs – which can keep you up at night, cause welts and emotional distress – indicates that a cruise ship company does not have their guests’ comfort in mind and may be slacking in their responsibilities to maintain clean facilities.

Bed bugs are the sign of uncleanliness. And if the sheets and bedding aren’t clean, who knows what else could be unsanitary aboard a cruise? If the beds aren’t adequately cleaned, it could mean that the kitchen area is not maintained well, or that the whirpool or spa isn’t scrubbed to prevent a buildup of potentially harmful bacteria. Continue reading

Often we assume that dangers outside the home are the most likely to cause us harm. However, sometimes it’s the items found within our own homes can cause debilitating injuries or even wrongful deaths. Items like heavy furniture can be especially dangerous to children, and if you or a loved one or a child was injured or wrongfully killed in an accident involving furniture or other household items, contact a wrongful death attorney at the Cambridge law offices of Altman & Altman LLP today.

These tragedies can occur at any time

It may seem unlikely, but a furniture-related accident can happen at any time. Consider how easily a young child can wander away from your watchful eye. It can only take a matter of seconds before a child pulls out a drawer of a dresser and stands in it, simply wanting to play, only for the whole dresser to become off balance and fall onto the child.

These types of accidents have taken the lives of children in places across the world. Most recently, a California family was awarded $46 million in a settlement with Swedish furniture giant Ikea after a similar accident involving a dresser claimed the life of their two-year-old child. It is reportedly the largest settlement paid to a family for the wrongful death of a single child in United States history. In 2016, Ikea paid $50 million to the families of three other children who had been killed by the same type of dresser.

Families of the child victims say that Ikea was aware of the potential dangers involving that specific dresser, especially after the settlement in 2016. Despite this knowledge, they alleged the company did not do enough to get dangerous dressers recalled or do enough to promote better safety in newer models they produced since the wrongful deaths occurred. Ikea, through a spokesperson, took responsibility for the action and offered their condolences to the California family.

Children aren’t the only ones at risk

While children are vulnerable to furniture-related accidents more than an able-bodied adult would be, children are not the only one who can be injured in such an incident. The elderly – especially those who are living alone or with minimal supervision – can easily become injured if a heavy piece of furniture were to topple over.

Perhaps they lose their balance and grab for the nearest thing to catch them, and the furniture is on wheels without any braking mechanism or is too top heavy by design. The furniture could easily then topple over and land on the senior citizen, which would likely cause severe injuries such as lacerations, broken bones, concussions or other major trauma. This could result in extensive hospital stays with necessary and risky surgery, permanent mobility problems and, in the worst cases, death. Continue reading

With 19 women joining together in the most recent lawsuit against Lyft – which claims they were allegedly sexually assaulted while utilizing the service and were then were promptly ignored by the company after complaining – questions continue to arise about Lyft’s safety and the ability of the company to vet its drivers. If you or a loved one has been harmed or sexually assaulted while riding in a Lyft or other ride sharing service, contact an attorney from Altman & Altman LLP right away.

A reoccurring problem

The options made available by ride sharing services like Lyft and Uber have drastically altered the transportation landscape and given a convenient means of travel for those looking for a safe ride around towns and cities across the country. However, this most recent case is far from the first that has arisen which alleges ride-sharing customers being victimized by drivers.

In September, another 14 women banded together to file a similar lawsuit, which alleged that Lyft allowed sexual predators to become drivers, and then refused to cooperate with women after they had been attacked, or protected their own business interests over helping the victims attain justice.

Lyft responded by announcing it was enacting several organizational efforts to address the situation, including sexual harassment and sexual violence prevention training for drivers and a partnership with the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network – and they maintained that all drivers go through a criminal background check.

But the most recent lawsuit has advocates and the victims themselves crying foul that the steps have not done enough, and that the company’s response when these crimes occur has continued to be not in the interest of the victim, but of the company’s reputation. There have been approximately 200 women that have come forward between the ages of 20 and 40 who to report they were sexually assaulted while utilizing Lyft’s services.

Nobody should be victimized when placing their trust in a service like Lyft

Lyft and other ride sharing services have changed the game when it comes to going out, especially for those who are thinking ahead of time when they may be planning on drinking to a point where it wouldn’t be safe to drive themselves. This kind of forward thinking should be rewarded, as they are protecting others and themselves from possibly destructive behavior. Unfortunately, an abhorrent number of drivers working for Lyft have taken advantage of the position of trust they are placed in.

The response from Lyft must be uniform and strong. They must cooperate with any customer who has been victimized while utilizing their services and try to implement any other means to prevent such activity – whether it be through mandating the use of interior and exterior cameras on the vehicle or by improving their screening process to prevent predators from becoming drivers in the first place. Continue reading

Our nation’s veterans and active military members deserve our respect and appreciation for the tough job they do in protecting our country and our way of life. Unfortunately, veterans and active duty service members have not been treated with the type of respect we would hope when it comes to a brand of earplugs manufactured under the 3M umbrella, which has led to hearing loss and permanent hearing damage due to serious design flaws. If you or a loved one has suffered hearing loss as a result of the use of these earplugs, contact a personal injury attorney from Altman & Altman LLP today.

3M subject to many lawsuits over these common military earplugs

3M is a multinational conglomerate corporation which owns many subsidiary companies that manufacture any different type of medical and pharmaceutical products imaginable. One of these companies, Aearo Technologies, manufactured a type of protective earplug in 2000 that was intended to be useful when worn two different ways – one way would supposedly block out all loud sounds, while the other way would block out most loud sounds but still allow the wearer to hear soft sounds, like the instructions of a fellow soldier or commanding officer.

Aearo Technologies was bought by 3M in 2008, and since 3M won a bid to become the exclusive supplier of protective earplugs to the military between 2003 and 2012, they sought to continue selling these earplugs, which are called “Combat Arms.”

What is now the subject of many lawsuits is the fact that 3M allegedly knew from the moment they purchased the company that the Combat Arms earplugs had a crucial design flaw which essentially rendered them completely useless in a loud combat situation.

3M allegedly knew about this complaint because Aearo Technologies noted the presence design flaw during the earplug’s production in 2000 – when the technician testing the plugs took an extra step when inserting them to prevent the design flaw from affecting their sound blocking capabilities – a step that would not be immediately apparent to anybody unless they were made aware of it beforehand. There is good reason to suspect 3M would know about this flaw, because the technician that worked for Aearo Technologies was brought on board to work for 3M after they were acquired.

Lawsuits allege that both Aearo, and 3M after they acquired Aearo, knowingly misled the U.S. government and the thousands of U.S. military service members who relied on the faulty earplugs, which resulted in many cases of temporary and even permanent hearing damage.

These earplugs caused real damage, and Altman & Altman LLP can help

Research from complainants show that during the time interval in which 3M and Aearo was supplying Combat Arms earplugs to the military, cases of hearing loss and tinnitus in combat veterans spiked to a significant degree. This is simply unconscionable that a company trusted with the care of military service members could fail to protect one of their most crucial senses, despite having good reason to suspect there was a flaw in the design of one of their most highly sold products.

Selling defective products which are known to have a design flaw that renders them ineffective in their original purpose is unethical and it is also against the law. There is good evidence to suggest that 3M should have recognized the design flaw in these earplugs and accounted for that, but instead they chose to continue selling the earplugs to continue making a profit, allegedly at the expense of our brave men and women in uniform. Continue reading

The temporary, four-month ban imposed which prohibits the sale of all vaping products in Massachusetts has entered its second month despite multiple legal challenges from vape shop owners and the general public, and controversy around whether Governor Charlie Baker abused his authority as governor to implement the ban.

As the count of people who have suffered respiratory illnesses from vaping products continue to rise, the attorneys at the Cambridge personal injury firm of Altman & Altman LLP are ready to hear from you if you have reason to believe you or a loved one contracted a serious illness due to a vaping product.

These mysterious illnesses affect the lungs and total respiratory systems of the afflicted, and have been confirmed to have resulted in the deaths of at least two Massachusetts residents at this time. According to the Center for Disease Control, there have been 1,888 confirmed cases of EVALI – which is the abbreviation being used to described e-cigarette, or vaping, product use associated lung injury – in 49 states (all except Alaska) and 37 total deaths across 24 states as of Oct. 29, 2019.

According to the CDC, a majority of the patients who have presented with this illness have a history of e-cigarette or vaping product use, and THC – the psychoactive chemical present in marijuana – has been in “most” of the samples tested by the FDA to date. Most patients have reported a history of using THC products as well.

However, the CDC also reports that THC products off the street or obtained from “informal sources” such as illicit dealers or friends and family members are linked to most of the cases and “play a major role in the outbreak.”

Response to the Massachusetts ban

For the reason above outlined by the CDC, certain vape shop owners and legal marijuana business advocates have criticized Governor Baker’s vape ban as being over-aggressive and overreactive, which is putting legitimate businesses at risk of financial ruin during the ban. After all, while it may only be a temporary, four-month ban, four months is an eternity in business time, especially if vaping products make up a significant portion of that business’s revenue.

A Massachusetts judge recently ruled that the Baker administration improperly went forward with the ban without any public hearings to assess the potential harm to businesses, which caused the administration to re-file the legislation for the ban. Despite the legal trouble, Governor Baker continues to stand by the ban and say that, until an exact root of the illnesses can be determined, it is a necessary step to preserve public health. Continue reading

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