If you do work as an expert witness on warnings, you probably feel quite confident that you know a bad warning when you see one (and would know a good one if you ever saw one). Of course, backing up our opinion with some version of, "I just know" doesn't make for very strong testimony. Indeed, we can count on our criteria being challenged by opposing council even when we can articulate them.
Regulatory agencies (e.g., FDA, OSHA, CPSC, NHTSA, etc.) exist to serve and protect the public from bad actors in the corporate or industrial world whose decisions and actions may lead to products or services that could potentially harm or kill workers and consumers. It would seem obvious, therefore, that the leaders of these agencies would be strong, neutral and objective regulators without close ties to the very industries they must regulate. Under such a model, the best interests of the public could be served without concern for the profits of the regulated industries. Unfortunately, as anyone who reads any newspaper knows too well, that model has never been true. In fact, since the creation of virtually every regulatory agency, the leadership of these agencies have either come from or exited to the very industries they were to regulate.
This week, as my family and I prepare for a one week Caribbean cruise, the last thing on our minds is what legal recourse we may have should something go awry on our vacation. However, with the recent crippling of the Carnival Triumph which, following an engine fire, was adrift for four days with overflowiug toilets, unbearable heat and never-ending lines for food, the first two lawsuits have been flied agaiust Carnival Cruises.
According to news reported almost daily, we are and will continue to experience flu activity in the United States at record levels. Both the CDC and the Mayors of major cities such as Boston and New York have declared public health emergencies blaming the current raging flu epidemic. We all know the symptoms of the flu: aches and pains throughout the body; blocked or runny nose; chills and cold sweats, fever, fatigue or sore throat. Most medical experts agree that the quickest and safest way to prevent the flu is to get a flu shot and let the vaccine now on the market stop the epidemic spread of the flu. Sadly, as of this date, slightly more than 1/3 of our citizens got vaccinated.
In essence, to warn is to place someone on advance notice of a danger or a potential danger. To warn requires that the person or people giving the warning have a superior knowledge of the harm or potential harm compared to the person or people exposed. Further, the person or the people who are warning must also have a superior knowledge of the means of reducing either the likelihood and/or the magnitude of the harm or potential harm as compared with the person or people exposed.
Earlier this month, the New York Times reported that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had received claims that the drink 5-Hour Energy may have led to 13 deaths and 33 hospitalizations in the last four years. 5-Hour Energy is a highly caffeinated energy shot sold by Michigan-based Living Essentials (a unit of Innovation Ventures) in 2-ounce packages equivalent to drinking about two cups of coffee.
As we approach the holiday season this year, we should keep in mind a new study released last month warns that 42% of Americans could be obese by 2030 (up from 36% in 2010) and 11% could be severely obese, which means about 100 pounds overweight (vs. 6% in 2010). The study, done by the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation projects that in every state the rate of obesity could reach 42% and in thirteen states, that number could exceed 60% of the population. Mississippi, which currently leads the nation in obesity rates, could have as many as 2/3 of its population obese by 2030.
Tara Godoy, the President of University Park Legal Nurse Consulting in the Northern San Francisco Bay Area recently brought to our attention via a posting on the Expert Witness Network that the FDA earlier this month has issued a consumer advisory warning the public that popular topical pain relieving products such as IcyHot and Bengay have been linked to a risk of a rare chemical burn injury.
Last month, two California mothers sued General Mills claiming that they falsely advertised and deceptively marketed its Nature Valley products as "natura1" when they contain highly processed ingredients such as high fructose com syrup, and high maltose corn syrup and maltodextrin, a thickener that also adds sweetness to food. The lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the Northern Division of California and charges General Mills with false advertising and anticompetitiveness under California law.
New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed 12 civil lawsuits on July 10,2012 throughout New York State against 16 head shops that sold synthetic drugs which were marketed as different products such as glass cleaner, potpourri, bath salts and spice. The main claim in these lawsuits is that the products violate consumer protection laws for labeling by failing to warn consumers of the products' content, safety and health risks.