Of Course Johnson & Johnson Knew About Risks of Asbestos in Baby Powder

Johnson & Johnson has long denied that it had any knowledge about harmful ingredients in its talcum powder products. But a recent article in The New York Times reports that the company has known for years that its popular baby powder was potentially contaminated with asbestos. According to the article, the company was warned about the possibility of asbestos contamination in its baby powder by a company executive as early as 1971. The executive recommended to senior company leaders that Johnson & Johnson improve its quality control of talc, a mineral that is the main ingredient in the powder. Asbestos, which has been on the world radar screen for years as a cause of cancer, is often found near talc mines. Two years later, another executive also warned the company about possible asbestos fibers in its talc. Other warnings followed over the years. Instead of removing the product from the market, changing the main ingredient, or at least adding warning labels, senior company leaders instead sought to hide the findings. The deception and denials from the company have gone on for years, to the life-threatening detriment of consumers who use the product. Recent internal documents and memos that came to[…..]

What Do Airbnb Deaths Say About Safety and Accountability?


Many people book rooms in private homes or entire properties using the Airbnb website, or similar online rental sites, as an often more convenient or affordable option to staying in traditional hotels. But who should be held accountable if a person is injured or killed because of unsafe conditions or even violence at an Airbnb property? Several recent deaths of travelers have put the spotlight on culpability when things go wrong at Airbnb and other such lodgings. USA Today reported the cases of a woman who was murdered in Costa Rica and a couple and family of four who died from suspected carbon monoxide poisoning in rentals in Mexico. While a hotel is typically liable if people are injured on the property because of unsafe conditions, in this relatively new private-home rental environment, liability is not so clear and might be shared among the property owner and Airbnb. Liability becomes even murkier if, for example, someone leases a home and rents out rooms to travelers and a traveler is injured. The actual property owner may say that they were not aware that the person leasing their property was using it as an Airbnb; and perhaps they were not, but they[…..]

Can We Prevent School Shootings?

Can We Prevent School Shootings?

The March 2018 shooting at southern Maryland’s Great Mills High School has spurred action among Maryland legislators. In early April 2018 they passed legislation that would improve safety in our state’s schools. The bills provide either school resource officers or police coverage for the Maryland public high schools that don’t have any. In all, local jurisdictions gain $10 million for this purpose. The bills also require lockable classrooms and age-appropriate drills for dealing with active threats in our public schools. State Senator Steve Waugh, R-St. Mary’s, whose district includes the Great Mills High School, noted, “We have really done something very important for the state.” The Great Mills Confrontation A male student used a handgun to shoot a 16-year-old female he knew on March 20, 2018. An armed deputy joined in. By the time it was all over, the girl had suffered critical injuries, a 14-year-old boy was injured, and the 17-year-old shooter had sustained fatal wounds. The Maryland attack came hard on the heels of the February Parkland, Florida, tragedy, when 14 students and three adults died. The school superintendent for St. Mary’s County and for Great Mills High, J. Scott Smith, spoke out after the shooting, saying, “If[…..]

Who’s Responsible for the Duck Boat Disaster?

Who’s Responsible for the Duck Boat Disaster?

On July 19, 2018, a tour boat known as a “duck boat” capsized during a storm on Table Rock Lake near Branson, Missouri. Among the two crew members and 29 passengers on board, a total of 17 died—16 passengers and one from the crew. One woman lost nine of her family members in the tragedy. The sinking near Branson is far from the first duck boat fatalities in the U.S. Over the past 20 years, almost 40 people have died in duck boat accidents, either on the road or in the water (a duck boat can navigate both). Thirteen people died when a duck boat sank on a lake near Hot Springs, Arkansas, in May, 1999. What is a Duck Boat? Duck boats come from the military. During World War II and the Korean War, the U.S. military used DUKW (duck) boats to move goods and troops over both land and water. The boats are amphibious, meaning they can move smoothly from land to water and vice versa. The boats were never intended to have a long life span, and yet a number of them are still in use as commercial tourist transportation. It has been determined that the duck[…..]

Wrongful Death Cases Involving a Third Party

Gravestone And Trees

You may have read about wrongful deaths, which are unintentional injury-related deaths caused by someone else’s reckless or negligent actions. Typically, these deaths are not due to malice, as they are in homicides, but are fatalities caused by vehicular crashes or workplace accidents. But what does it mean when we speak of third-party wrongful deaths? Wrongful Deaths Explained A wrongful death, to be pursuable in court, must have the element of negligence on the part of the other party or parties responsible for the death. Wrongful deaths can occur as a result of motor vehicle collisions, job accidents, medical malpractice, and dangerous products. Wrongful death suits are intended to compensate immediate family survivors in cases where the deceased passed on because of someone else’s negligent actions. Think of a wrongful death case as a personal injury case where the victim is no longer living, so others must bring the case to court. While wrongful death suits are civil and not criminal by definition, a criminal conviction of the negligent party makes a strong case in favor of pursuing a civil case for financial damages. These damages are intended to make the survivors and the deceased’s estate whole. What are Third-Party[…..]

A Deceased Worker’s Family Loses Their Fight in the Maryland Courts

People Holding Hands

A recent ruling by the US District Court for the District of Maryland may have implications for future liability and negligent action lawsuits. The court dismissed claims brought by a deceased worker’s family which alleged that his death resulted from prolonged exposure to a substance containing a powerful carcinogen. The story goes back to the 1950s. Specifically, the company operated a manufacturing plant that produced chromium ore processing residues (COPR). The company then used the COPR as landfill on which they built a marine terminal along the Patapsco River. The worker in question was employed at the marine terminal from 1973 to 2001. He died from lung cancer in 2012, and it was alleged that his lung cancer was caused by exposure to the COPR. Maryland’s statute of repose was cited as grounds for dismissal of the case. Wait, What’s a Statute of Repose? A statute of repose shares some similarities with a statute of limitation, in that the statute eliminates specific legal rights and recourse if action is not taken by a certain deadline. The deadline for a statute of repose operates differently in that it defines the legal right that’s involved in terms of the amount of time[…..]

Wear It!

Life Jacket While Water Skiing

Summer is the time when many of us like to go boating. But remember, every time you are out on the water, make sure you “Wear It!” Wear your life jacket, that is. Always wearing your life jacket was the focus of this year’s Safe Boating Week (May 16-22, 2015) and also the focus of the yearlong North American Safe Boating Campaign. The campaign is co-sponsored by the National Safe Boating Council and the U.S. Coast Guard Boating Safety Division. The Wear It! campaign aims to educate people about the necessity of life jackets and the different varieties of life jackets, in an effort to reduce drowning fatalities. In 2014, drowning was the reported cause of death in 78 percent of all boating fatalities, according to U.S. Coast Guard ‘s statistics. Of those drowning deaths, 84 percent did not have a life jacket on. Obviously, we could greatly reduce drownings if people would simply wear their life jackets, and wear the right kind of life jacket for them, while boating. What Kind of Life Jacket Do I Wear? Choosing the right life jacket for you and all your boat’s passengers can be a little intimidating. We’ll take this step by[…..]

How Effective is That Lifeguard?

Lifeguard on beach

Here in Maryland, despite living in the greater Baltimore area where you find a lot of pools, a remarkable number of us swim in open water such as the local rivers, the Chesapeake Bay, and the Atlantic Ocean. And with swimming in open water comes the danger of drowning (See: Increase in Drowning Deaths). Drowning is one of the leading causes of accidental death in the United States; roughly 4,000 people drown every year. Open water drownings account for 50 to 75 percent of these deaths. That is where the need for effective lifeguarding comes in. It Began As Bathing Swimming in the ocean, or “bathing” as it was known back then, became popular in the 1800s as a way to escape the heat of urban areas. As swimming and general water activity increased, so did drownings. At first, lifelines were tried that beachgoers could grasp, but they unfortunately proved inadequate. Then the idea of hiring people to save others in the water became popular. The first beach patrol was founded in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in 1891, and the individuals were called “lifeguards.” Since then, many organizations have sprung up to train and certify lifeguards. The United States Lifesaving[…..]

Liquid Nicotine — A Little Can Be Lethal

Liquid Nicotine

Would you leave a bottle of bleach within the reach of a toddler? Parents know to store household chemicals behind locked cabinet doors or on a high shelf, aware and wary of accidental poisonings that befall curious children. And yet, too many parents are leaving containers of significantly more toxic and enticing liquids where children can get their hands on them. Bearing pictures of candy canes, juicy fruits and sweets, and lacking childproof caps, bottles of liquid nicotine for refilling e-cigarettes are fatal temptations. Comparing the toxicity of liquid nicotine and bleach, Henry Spiller, Director of the Central Ohio Poison Center at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, asked, “Would we be concerned if a child drank an entire bottle of bleach? Concerned yes, corrosive elements yes, but fatal? Highly unlikely. A child would not voluntarily drink even 8 ounces of household bleach because of the smell and taste and large amount they would need to drink to prove lethal. In comparison, a child could easily consume even a teaspoon of liquid nicotine and have it prove fatal.” In December 2014, a one-year-old in upstate New York died after ingesting liquid nicotine at his home. He was found unresponsive and rushed to a[…..]

Optimizing Maryland’s Ignition Interlock Program

Police Car

What if one-third of the city of Annapolis were wiped out in one year by drunk drivers? That’s one way to envision the fact that during 2013, 10,076 people were killed in drunk driving crashes somewhere in the U.S. Or look at it this way: In 2013, 141 people were killed just in Maryland accidents caused by drunk drivers. Now imagine white crosses have been placed along the length of I-95 as it traverses Maryland — one for every DUI death in our state in 2013. If you were to drive I-95 at 60 mph, you’d be passing a marker every minute. Think we need to do something about that? The national president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) was in Annapolis on March 4, speaking in support of proposed legislation which would strengthen Maryland’s existing ignition interlock program. A Senate Bill titled “Drunk Driving Reduction Act of 2015” and sponsored by Sen. Jamie Raskin and others would require that all people who are convicted of drunk driving (i.e., with a BAC of .08 or above) have interlock devices installed on their vehicles, even if they are first-time offenders. For a first offense, they would have to use the devices[…..]