What is the Effect of Opioids in Utero?

A recent Philadelphia Inquirer article reported on how America’s opiate epidemic is affecting children, citing a recent study. But what the study didn’t cover, according to the article, is how newborns are affected from exposure in utero.

It may be surprising to think that pregnant mothers consume opioids, but the number is growing, according to the article. The author estimated that there are five times the number of pregnant mothers consuming opioids as compared to 20 years ago.

The effect on a newborn can be devastating. Some newborns experience withdrawal symptoms, known as Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome. If left untreated, it can cause seizures, neurological damage or, in rare cases, death, reported the article. Street drugs consumed by pregnant mothers can worsen the effects.

Not every infant experiences withdrawal, however, according to the article. Some newborns may have no symptoms at all.

Pennsylvania now requires hospitals to report the birth of babies affected by opioid exposure in utero. The rules for reporting are unclear, however, noted the article. Some hospitals only report infants that experience withdrawal, while others will be reporting all newborns exposed to opioids in utero. Still others will report babies exposed to any street drug (including opioids).

Do you have a legal question on a birth injury that you believe is the result of negligence? Contact us online or call 215-751-0100.

Overmedication in Nursing Homes?

Nursing home residents in the U.S. are overmedicated with powerful antipsychotic drugs that may not even be approved for their conditions, the Reading Eagle recently reported. While the use of antipsychotic drugs is down significantly in recent years, advocacy groups have still been calling for tougher measures against improper use, and those appeals were reinforced last month by a report released by the international human rights nonprofit Human Rights Watch detailing the problem.

Antipsychotic drugs are approved to treat serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, according to the article. In nursing homes, these powerful prescriptions often are used to sedate residents with dementia, even though the drugs are not approved for that use. The article reports that elderly dementia patients treated with these drugs face a higher risk of death and suffer other consequences.

“Antipsychotic drugs alter consciousness and can adversely affect an individual’s ability to interact with others, reported the article. “They can also make it easier for understaffed facilities, with direct care workers inadequately trained in dementia care, to manage the people who live there.” The article relayed the story of a California woman with an 88-year-old mother who suffers from dementia. In the article, the woman claimed that “her mother, during stays at three different nursing homes in recent years, was sometimes left neglected for hours at a time in her wheelchair after being given antipsychotics.”

Do you have a loved one who you believe may have been the subject of nursing home neglect, or who suffered ill effects from overmedication? To discuss your legal options, contact us online or call us at  215-751-0100.

Federal Government Penalizes 32 PA Hospitals for Allowing Injuries

The state of Pennsylvania reduced Medicare payments for 32 hospitals to penalize them for high rates of infections and injuries, according to a recent news report. The article cited that hospitals were fined for infections related to catheter and intravenous lines, certain surgeries, MRSA and c-diff infections, and injuries such as bed sores and hip fractures from hospital falls.

While such penalties are intended to encourage hospitals to prioritize reduction of the incidents, the story went on to note that seventeen of the hospitals fined had also been penalized the prior year.

An analysis by Kaiser Health News shared that hospitals that treat lower income patients are more likely to be fined, calling the penalties “controversial” because “hospitals that treat sicker patients and those that do a better job of identifying infections” are punished. Patient advocates argue that while the system is not perfect, it helps hold hospitals accountable.

If you have been a victim of what you believe to be injury from medical malpractice, contact us online or call 215-751-0100 to discuss your legal options.

How Long Do You Have to Sue?


The Statute of Limitations | Personal Injury Lawsuits

Under the laws of Pennsylvania, when you have been hurt because of the carelessness of negligence of another person, there’s a limited amount of in which you can file a lawsuit to recover for personal injury and/or property losses. The statute that sets forth this time limit is known as the statute of limitations. The statute can be extended, but only in extremely limited situations, so it’s important that you take swift action to retain legal counsel, so that your attorney can gather, assess and preserve evidence, and can file your claim before the expiration of the statute.

In Pennsylvania, the statute of limitations for filing a personal injury action is two years. As a general rule, the statute begins to run on the date of your injury. However, if you were involved in an accident, but did not know at the time that you had suffered any injury, or did not know that a specific defendant’s actions caused an injury, the running of the statute will be “tolled,” or suspended until your discovery of the injury and/or the fact that a certain defendant caused the injury. It’s not uncommon, in cases involving toxic torts or other unseen dangers, that injury or illness not manifest until years or decades after exposure. In those types of situations, a court may be inclined to toll the statute until the discovery of either the injury or its cause.

There are other instances where the statute of limitations may be tolled:

  • If the injured party lacks legal capacity—is a minor, mentally ill or insane—the statute may be tolled until the party has capacity, although it’s not required
  • If a defendant has left the jurisdiction, you may be able to suspend the statute of limitations until his or her return

Contact Us

To schedule a private meeting with an experienced personal injury attorney, call our foreclosure hotline at 855-289-1660 or e-mail us . Evening and weekend meetings can be arranged upon request. We will travel to your home, if necessary, to meet with you.

Snow Blowers Still Causing Injury Despite Recall

Foot soft splint for treatment of injuries from tendon inflammat

It’s January in Pennsylvania—it would be pretty unusual not to have snow on the ground. Shoveling’s pretty hard work, so why not fire up the snow blower? Before you do, though, take a good look at the brand. If it’s an MTD Snow Thrower and you’ve had it for a while, there’s a good chance that it could be extremely dangerous to operate. The MTD Snow Thrower was subject to voluntary recall some 10 years ago, but company officials acknowledge that a significant number of the machines have not been returned and still pose a serious risk of injury.

According to court documents filed against MTD, the manufacturer, more than 130,000 snow blowers manufactured by the company had tire rims that were extremely dangerous. The rims were made of a plastic material, and when users overinflated the tires on the snow blower, the air pressure had a tendency to cause the rims to explode, sending plastic shrapnel flying through the air. Sources say that hundreds of owners have reported a wide range of injuries, from cuts and bruises to broken bones, including fingers and toes. Company officials say the snow blowers were sold through Sears, Home Depot and other hardware outlets. The Sears product carried the Craftsman logo.

Contact the Law Office of Shaffer & Gaier, L.L.C.

If you or someone you love has been hurt because a consumer product was negligently designed or poorly manufactured, you have a right to pursue compensation from anyone in the chain of distribution. Let us help.

At Shaffer & Gaier, we offer a free initial consultation to every client. To set up an appointment, contact us online or call our office in Philadelphia at 215-751-0100, or in New Jersey at 856-429-0970. Evening and weekend meetings can be arranged upon request. We will travel to your home, if necessary, to meet with you.

Medical Malpractice Suits Involving Cauda Equina

Medical Malpractice Suits Involving Cauda Equina


Have you been experiencing lower back pain or sciatica? Have you had numbness or weakness in one or both legs that has made it difficult for you to get up from a chair, or caused you to stumble? Have you lost sensation around your genitals or buttocks? Have you had bladder, bowel or sexual dysfunction? You may have cauda equine syndrome, a neurological disorder caused by an injury to the nerve roots that exit the spinal cord.

The symptoms of cauda equine can generally be reversed, if treated before they become too pronounced. Unfortunately, even though testing is pretty simple, the signs are often missed by doctors until it’s too late. In some instances, a doctor may be able to diagnose cauda equine through a physical exam, but an MRI, a myelogram or CT scan will all help with the diagnosis.

According to experts, there’s about a 48 hour window during which the effects of cauda equine can be reversed. The typical treatment calls for immediate surgical decompression, where doctors operate to alleviate pressure. In some instances, where there’s swelling around the base of the spine, you may need corticosteroids or antibiotics as well.

The types of injuries tied to cauda equine (Latin for "horse’s tail") are often very serious, including paralysis, drop feet, incontinence and considerable neurological pain. Cauda equine can be caused by any number of factors, including:

  • Blunt trauma to the lower back, or lumbar spine injury in a car accident
  • A ruptured disck
  • Spinal stenosis (a narrowing of the spinal canal)
  • A tumor or lesion on the spine
  • An infection or inflammation in the lower spine

Contact Us

To schedule a private meeting with an experienced personal injury attorney, call our foreclosure hotline at 855-289-1660 or e-mail us. Evening and weekend meetings can be arranged upon request. We will travel to your home, if necessary, to meet with you.

Hospital and Doctors Face Malpractice Action after Death of Twin

Hospital and Doctors Face Malpractice Action after Death of Twin


The parents of an infant who died in 2014 have filed a medical malpractice lawsuit alleging that Capital Health Medical Center in Hopewell, as well as two doctors on staff there, were negligent in their treatment of the couple’s newborn son, causing the boy’s death. The lawsuit, filed by Jeffery and Jodi Freeman, of Yardley, Pennsylvania, also named The Center for Women’s Health, Lawrence OB-GYN Associates and four registered nurses as defendants.

According to the lawsuit, doctors and nurses on duty on August 21, 2014 failed to properly monitor and respond to the diminished heartbeat of the infant, the second of twins. They say that staff members then employed a vacuum delivery process, rather than caesarean or other methods that would have been less harmful to the child. After delivery, the child was diagnosed with perinatal asphyxia, caused by lack of oxygen and blood flow to the brain.

According to the complaint, Mr. Freeman was with his wife throughout the delivery process and "immediately recognized that malpractice …had occurred." The child was transferred to a neonatal intensive care unit shortly after birth, but was placed on life support for two days. He died hours after the life support was withdrawn.

Hospital officials expressed their condolences and said that they have considerable experience handling challenging and complicated deliveries. They insisted that all proper procedures were followed.

Contact the Lawyers at Shaffer & Gaier, L.L.C.

For a free initial consultation, send us an e-mail or call us in Philadelphia at 215-751-0100, or in New Jersey at 856-429-0970. You can also reach our foreclosure hotline at 855-289-1660. Evening and weekend meetings can be arranged upon request. We will travel to your home, if necessary, to meet with you.

Medical Malpractice Lawsuits Make Hospitals Safer Study Finds

The most common medical errors are not surgical errors, labor-and-delivery errors, or drug mistakes. The medical mistakes that lead to the most medical malpractice lawsuits and payments are diagnosis mistakes.

Researchers* used the National Practitioner Data Bank, an organization that records all actions taken against health care professionals by state licensing boards, to determine that 28.6 percent of medical malpractice lawsuits are for mistaken diagnosis, delayed diagnosis, and other diagnosis errors.

Diagnostic mistakes accounted for 33.8 percent of disabilities and nearly 40 percent of deaths that led to medical malpractice payments. There were more than 100,000 payments as a result of diagnostic mistakes from 1986 to 2010. The senior author of the study, Dr. David E. Newman-Toker, who is an associate professor of neurology of Johns Hopkins, said, “This is a major health problem . . .. There’s a lot of room for improvement. You can’t get the treatment right if you don’t get the diagnosis right.”

Error relating to medical treatment and surgery were the second and third most common causes of medical payments stemming from lawsuits. Obstetric, medication, monitoring, anesthesia, and the rest accounted for 20 percent of medical malpractice lawsuit payments.

Contact Shaffer & Gaier – Medical Malpractice Attorneys, New Jersey and PA

The law firm of Shaffer & Gaier protects the rights of those who have suffered injury as a result of a medical mistake that should never have happened. To set up a free initial consultation, contact our office online or call our foreclosure hotline at 855-289-1660. Or call our office location in Philadelphia at 215-751-0100, or in New Jersey at 856-429-0970.

*BMJ Quality and Safety: International Journal of Healthcare Improvement

Consumer’s Victory Against Defective Drug

On March 4, 2009, there was a tangible shift in the playing field between consumers and big business. Consumers have always faced a steep uphill climb when fighting corporate America and defective products. This month, the Supreme Court of the United States thankfully offered a rope to make that climb a little easier when it allowed injured persons to sue for injuries caused by defective drugs.

Wyeth v. Levin

The tale of Diane Levin is truly disturbing and highlights the massive loopholes created by the FDA regulations that the drug companies have driven countless profits through. In 2007, Levin, a professional musician, went to the hospital to treat a migraine headache. After being injected with a drug manufactured by Wyeth, she left with injuries that led quickly and irreversibly to the loss of her right arm. Specifically, Levin’s arm was amputated because Wyeth’s drug Phenergan, prescribed to alleviate nausea associated with a migraine headache reached her arteries. Phenergan was given to Levin using a method of administration that was permissible under Wyeth’s labeling instructions, even though Wyeth knew this method increased the risk of contact with arteries and serious injuries.

The drug was administered intravenously through a technique known as an “IV push.” In this method, a syringe pushes medication directly into the patient’s veins. Wyeth had known for decades that if Phenergan is administered by the “IV push” method, even by experienced clinicians, inadvertent arterial contact can result. This is in contrast to administration through a free flow IV bag, which reduces the risk of inadvertent arterial injection because the nurse or physician can be more certain that the needle has been placed in the vein.

Wyeth had known that when Phenergan comes into contact with an artery, the artery dies, necrosis, gangrene and amputation will result. Four experts testified at the state court level that if Phenergan is used intravenously it should be done only through a hanging IV bag and the labels should have warned against the use of IV push. However, Phenergan’s label did not contain any such warning regarding using of the IV push method. The Vermont Supreme Court held that the FDA never made any determination as to whether the label should have warned against the IV push method.

Because the IV push method was used to administer Phenergan to Levin, the drug penetrated her artery. For seven weeks after the injection, she suffered unimaginable physical and emotional pain as she watched her right hand turn black and die. In short as a result of being subjected to an unsafe and unnecessary method of administration of a drug to curb nausea, Levin endured two amputations. First, she lost her right hand and then her right arm up to the elbow harming her profession and life-long passion to be musician and play the guitar.

Background of FDA Labeling

The FDA’s labeling rules require a prescription drug or medical device manufacturer to make any changes to its label and to add or strengthen a warning about a possible adverse reaction as soon as it has reasonable evidence that the drug or device causes an adverse reaction. The importance of this rule was underscored in congressional debate regarding the passage of the Food and Drug Administration’s Amendments Act of 2007, which gave the agency additional authority to better regulate prescription drug approvals. When Congress passed this law, it understood the FDA’s rules to impose a duty on drug manufacturers to update their labels when they became aware of potential hazards.

Consumers who have been hurt by drugs and other dangerous products will now have more latitude since the Supreme Court has ruled that Federal Regulations do not always preempt state law. It is clear and the Supreme Court reaffirmed that Congress never intended to give the FDA full and total authority over drug labeling. Rather, state courts have had the right to hear cases in which people have been injured by drugs. And further, drug companies have the responsibility to fix their labels and keep them current with the latest warning information. Drug companies, the Court said, must also inform the doctors of dangers of drugs through their ubiquitous sales forces or by sending out letters to physicians. In this technology driven market economy this is certainly a simple endeavor. Wyeth, backed by the Bush administration, argued that once drug warning labels get FDA approval, the label does not need to be changed unless the FDA expressly asks for it. Part of Wyeth’s argument was that it was more efficient for Federal Regulations to take precedence because state laws vary so much. Anyone who has had any experience with these regulatory agencies knows that they move at a glacial pace. Science and technology are quickly evolving and it makes sense for drug companies to disseminate new information as soon as its available.

The Court also rejected Wyeth’s claim that allowing juries to entertain such claims would hamper the broader objectives of the Federal Statute. Indeed, the Court noted that the FDA had always welcomed state common law actions right up until it recently changed its position in 2006. Throughout its opinion, the Court stressed that the manufacturer bears responsibility for the contents of its label at all times. In our civil justice system, the Court noted, innocent people generally have recourse in state courts to hold companies accountable when they shirk their legal responsibilities. Drug companies are no different.

In his dissent, Justice Alito, who was joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Scalia, started by writing “this case illustrates that tragic facts make bad law. The Court holds that a state tort jury, rather than the FDA is ultimately responsible for regulating warning labels for prescription drugs.” To the contrary, the state tort system picks up when federal regulators fall down on the job. Can anyone really say with a straight face that they have complete and total confidence in the job the federal regulators are doing? If so, countless defective drugs and consumer products would never make it to market. We all know that is not the case.

In fact, serious data has found that side effects regarding prescription drugs are at a near epidemic rate. Consumer Reports recently reported that one in six Americans who have ever taken a prescription drug experiences side effects serious enough to send them to a doctor or hospital, but the majority of consumers don’t know that they can report these side effects to the FDA which are responsible for tracking drug safety problems.

Legislation on the Horizon

Recently, Democrats in Congress just introduced a measure to allow consumers harmed by medical devices approved by the FDA to sue the device manufacturer in state court. This is in response to the Supreme Court in Reigal v. Medronic. In Medronic, the Supreme Court allowed the dismissal of a lawsuit involving a ruptured catheter. In that case, the Supreme Court ruled that the FDA approval preempts state courts from hearing liability suits against the makers because such suits could minimize devices FDA determined benefits and risks. Medronic and the Bush administration asserted that “allowing state personal injury lawsuits against the makers of defective medical devices amounts to a state court requirement” different from the FDA requirements because such complaints are based on state laws. There is now legislation being funneled through Congress, that tries to further even the playing field with regard to making sure defective medical devices are also subject to state tort laws. Congress should act quickly to close up these loopholes as well.

It has often been said that the role of government is to fill the void when citizens acting individually cannot bridge the gap. This is the reason we have regulatory agencies that try to ensure that our roads are safe, the environment is protected and the food we eat is safe to name just a few. However, our government is under a tremendous amount of pressure and cannot meet the demands to ensure that the public is safe from defective products. That is why the avenue to the Court’s must remain open so injured citizens can seek redress against companies that manufacture, market, sell and , of course, profit from defective and unsafe products. If this important constitutional right is abrogated, the onslaught of dangerous and defective products hitting the market will have no limitation.

Lawyers Working Polling Places

November 4, 2008 was an historic day in America. No matter what your political affiliation, we can all be inspired by the record turnout and the astounding participation in the Democratic process.

The lawyers at Shaffer & Gaier were proud to be poll watchers to ensure that every person, Democrat, Republican or Independent had a clear path to the voting place. All of our attorneys, watched the polling places to ensure our citizens’ rights were not infringed upon and they could exercise their right to vote.

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