Teva Settles More Than $250 Million in Hepatitis Outbreak Cases

A syringe pulling medicine from a vial
Propofol’s medicine vials were too large, leading doctors to dangerously reuse them on multiple patients.

The pharmaceutical company Teva has set aside $285 million to settle lawsuits related to their anesthetic Propofol and an outbreak of Hepatitis C in Nevada.  As reported by Bloomberg, litigants alleged that the company purposefully sold the drug in vials large enough to be reused and improperly labeled the containers, leading doctors to use drugs from the same vial on multiple patients.  This practice leaves patients vulnerable to infection and led to the spread of a deadly virus to colonoscopy patients in Nevada, the litigants claimed.  Hepatitis C is a viral liver infection and can be deadly if left untreated.  More than 80 lawsuits have been brought against Teva, which hopes to settle with the majority of them.

We are reminded that modern pharmaceutical medicine is not guaranteed to be safe.  The drugs we put in our bodies are not perfect and are, as anything, always vulnerable to human error as in this case.  An understandable lack of foresight led to the distribution of too-large vials, which led to reuse, which led to a transmittal of disease.  Though companies usually work to pull imperfect drugs from the public, as evidenced by the seemingly-frequent recall of children’s Tylenol, some things will always slip through the cracks.  The best practice when dealing with chemicals and your body is to find a trustworthy doctor, take your time, and, of course, conduct your own research.

Goldline to Pay $4.5 Million to Victims of Gold Bullion Bait-and-Switch

Gold bullion, presumably not hoarded by Goldline
A couple bars of gold bullion, currently valued at $63,000

ABC News reports that Goldline, a dealer of precious metals, is to pay $4.5 million to settle a case with its defrauded customers and avoid criminal prosecution.  The company was accused of a “bait-and-switch”, advertising the sale of gold bullion and instead selling its customers much less valuable “collectible” gold coins.  California consumer protection attorneys alleged predatory business practices and 19 counts of criminal fraud in the company’s practice of convincing its customers that the government could confiscate gold bullion but not gold coins.  The company would then use this misinformation to justify an enormous markup for the coins.  One customer reports that he had lost half of the $5,000 he spent purchasing the coins due to the discrepancy between Goldline’s markup and the market-set value of the gold itself.  Most customers paid a markup 55% higher than the gold’s actual value.

More interesting than the settlement is the company’s attempt to spin the news.  As part of the settlement, the City of Santa Monica agreed to drop all criminal charges against Goldline.  In a press release issued by the company, they stress this fact first and foremost, making no mention of the $4.5 million to be paid to their victims.  Instead, Goldline identifies the suit as an investigation of “dissatisfied customers” and only  mentions they “continue to set [the] standard for customer disclosures”.  Take this as a lesson to read a company’s press releases with a grain of salt, or in this case, a heaping mound.  Also, if you’re in the market for gold bullion, don’t buy it from a company that advertises on conservation radio talk shows.

Goldman Sachs Settles Million Dollar Overtime Pay Case

Unpaid Goldman Sachs Employee Working Overtime
Might as well sleep when you aren’t getting paid for overtime.

Goldman Sachs IT employees who worked up to 70-hour weeks without overtime pay have won a settlement against their employer for the sum of $993,841, according to Bloomberg.  More than a hundred contracted computer technicians worked for the banking giant without overtime pay, according to a complaint filed May 2010.  Today, a US District Court judge approved the terms of the settlement, ending a two-year legal dispute.  $262,787 of that will go to the workers’ lawyers.

Workers in Information Technology typically experience a lack of overtime due to it being relatively new field of expertise.  IT work has become increasingly specialized over the last 30 years, and yet employers often do not recognize the vital importance of the job.  Though labor laws vary between states, it is generally illegal for a contracted employee to endure more than 40 hours of labor per week without overtime pay.  However, overtime infractions often go unreported — the threat of total unemployment is more terrifying to workers than the loss of a few hours of overtime pay.  In this case, the extent to which the IT professionals worked overtime was certainly egregious.  Hopefully this settlement will encourage other maligned employees to come forward and claim their rightful pay.

Banned Basketball Mom Wins $63k in Civil Rights Settlement

A Pittsburgh mother who was banned from her daughter’s high school basketball games has won a $63,500 settlement with her school district in a discrimination dispute.  Diane Wickstrom claimed that she was banned from the school’s basketball games and practices for no just cause after she sent an email concerning her daughter’s team.  After the email, the Peters Township Athletic Association imposed a new rule closing practices to the public, which Wickstrom claimed was enforced exclusively on her.  Lawyers for the basketball mom argued that the banning was an infringement on her First Amendment rights, with the ban occurring under “false premises”.  As part of the settlement, the township’s insurer will pay Wickstrom $55,000 and the school district $8,500, and Wickstrom, of course, has been readmitted to her daughter’s basketball games.

Read more at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Apple Reaches $375 Million Preliminary Settlement in iPhone 4 Antenna Dispute

Smart phones that likely have no antenna issues

Smart phones that likely have no antenna issues.

A 25 million-strong class action lawsuit against Apple has come to a close, with the tech giant now obliged to give the complainants their choice of a $15 reimbursement or a special cover for their iPhones.  Should all members of the class action suit choose the money, the total amount paid by Apple could be up to $375 million.

In 2010, Apple release its much-hyped iPhone 4, the latest in the succession of popular smart phones.  Early users soon found that the phone suffered poor reception when held normally due to the ill-chosen placement of the phone’s internal antenna.  When notified of the flaw, Apple offered the stale solution of “holding the phone in a different way”.  Users scoffed at the lame response, as reception was only lost when holding the phone in the usual manner, which has been the norm of cell phone usage for decades.  Incensed users brought the company to a class action lawsuit, alleging consumer fraud in that the company misrepresented the device’s ability to function in order to increase sales.

The terms of this settlement apply to any purchaser of the iPhone 4, which early numbers indicate may be 25 million people.  If you are eligible to benefit from this refund, Apple is obligated to contact you via email by April 30th, 2012.  After that, purchasers have 120 days to claim their refund.  If you have not been contacted by April 30th and think you are still eligible, contact Apple’s customer service.