3M pays $9 Million for Soldiers’ Defective Earplugs

Earplugs Linked to Hearing Loss

(Jan. 7, 2019) The 3M company agreed to pay the U.S. government $9.1 Million last summer to settle a lawsuit over defective earplugs that allegedly caused our soldiers hearing loss and/or tinnitus. That sum included $1.9 Million for a whistleblower who said the company knew the plugs were defective.

Related:  Defective Earplug Lawsuit

The Minnesota-based company made the earplugs for U. S. soldiers stationed mostly in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2003 to 2015.  The Dual-Ended Combat Arms™ Earplugs (CAEv2) – now discontinued – were standard equipment for soldiers during those years.

Acting in good faith that the plugs would do what the company claimed, the U.S. Defense Logistics Agency distributed millions of dollars’ worth of them to thousands of service members, putting them at risk for permanent hearing loss or impairment.

The Defective CAEv2 Earplugs

The plugs featured a dual-ended design. They were meant to be used as either traditional earplugs, or they could be flipped over to provide normal hearing while protecting the wearer’s eardrums from gunfire noise and explosions.

The main complaint was that the earplugs were too short to be effectively inserted into a user’s ears. The too-short design led to the plugs gradually loosening in some ears, effectively rendering them useless to protect from hearing damage.

Whistleblower:  3M Knew Earplugs Defective

Though 3M has admitted no wrongdoing in the settlement, a whistleblower said 3M and its predecessor, Aearo Technologies, knew about the plugs’ design problems as early as 2000.  The earplugs failed to pass safety tests then.

Defective Earplug Lawsuit

The defective earplug lawsuit’s allegations were issued under whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act.  That law allows private parties to sue on behalf of the U.S. government if they believe the lawsuit’s defendants submitted false claims for government funds. The law also allows whistleblowers to share in any funds recovered from a successful lawsuit.

As part of the defective earplug lawsuit resolution, the whistleblower will receive $1,911,000, according to the Department of Justice.

Legal Help for Soldiers with Hearing Loss

More than 2.6 million veterans are receiving disability compensation for hearing loss and tinnitus (ringing or buzzing in the ears), according to the Veterans Administration (VA).

Our law firm is investigating defective earplug hearing loss lawsuits.   We are considering legal action for anyone who meets the following criteria:

  • Served in the military 2003-2015
  • Was issued earplugs during service
  • Suffers from permanent hearing loss or tinnitus

Contact Matthews & Associates for a free legal consultation in a potential defective earplug lawsuit. Our attorneys and legal assistants may be able to help you take legal action for your hearing loss.

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Judge limits Monsanto Trial Evidence

(Jan. 4, 2019)  A Monsanto Christmas wish was granted this week by a judge in the Roundup cancer litigation.  California Judge Vince Chhabria ruled for Monsanto in its lawyers’ requests that the jury in the next Roundup cancer trial not hear evidence of how Monsanto worked to influence regulators and manipulate public opinion.

Unlike the first trial – in which a jury awarded a $289 million verdict that stated Monsanto’s Roundup caused a California groundskeeper’s cancer – the judge ruled to split the second trial into two parts.  That decision could have far-reaching consequences for the entire Roundup litigation.

New Trial Arrangement favors Monsanto

In the new two-part trial arrangement, the plaintiff’s attorneys will first have to convince the jury that Roundup caused the plaintiff’s non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. They will need to do so without any reference to Monsanto’s now well-documented attempts to influence the EPA, other regulators, and the public at large.  Plaintiff’s attorneys will also not be able to show Monsanto’s secret funding of ostensibly “scientific” research projects that established outcomes which virtually always favored the company that funded them.

If – and only if – the plaintiff’s attorneys are able to convince the jury that Roundup caused the plaintiff’s lymphoma, will they then be able to reveal the full scope of Monsanto’s efforts to keep  the public from discovering that Roundup was not as safe as the company advertised.

If Roundup Were Safe

If Roundup were as safe as advertised, why would Monsanto be so concerned with manipulating public opinion?  Why would it spend countless hours and monies to attack or “neutralize” honest researchers like Giles Seralini?  If Roundup were safe, why would Monsanto feel the need to hire academic stooges like Berkeley’s Henry I. Miller to put his name on propaganda penned by Monsanto executives?  If Roundup were safe, why would Monsanto need to cajole and massage EPA employees like Jess Rowland to get them to do the company’s bidding and squelch honest inquiry into Roundup safety?

Scope of Ruling

Judge Chhabria’s Jan. 3 order applies to Edwin Hardeman’s case, which is scheduled for trial on Feb. 25.  The ruling also applies to two other bellwether trials which will help determine the range of damages and define settlement options for the rest of the 620 Roundup cases before Chhabria.

Mr. Hardeman’s lawyers contend that the exluded evidence, including internal Monsanto documents, show the company’s misconduct.  They believe that evidence was critical to an August 2018 California state court jury’s $289 million award in a similar case, though that verdict was later reduced to $78 million and is under appeal.

Under Judge Chhabria’s order, evidence of Monsanto’s alleged misconduct would be allowed only if glyphosate were found by the jury to have caused Mr. Hardeman’s cancer.   If that happens, the trial can proceed to a second phase to determine Monsanto’s (Bayer’s) liability.

Monsanto and Bayer face more than 9,300 U.S. lawsuits over Roundup’s safety in U.S. state and federal courts.

A Bayer statement welcomed the judge’s decision:  “The court’s decision to keep the focus of the trial on the extensive science relevant to human health is encouraging,” the company said.

The attorney for Mr. Hardeman said that even without the evidence of Monsanto’s influence peddling, she feels confident the jury will be able to understand that Roundup caused her client’s lymphoma.

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FDA warns Genetech over Stem Cell Contamination

Liveyon recalls all Genetech Products

(Jan. 2, 2019)  The FDA warned Genetech, Inc. and its president Edwin N. Pinos on Dec. 20, 2018 for marketing stem cell therapies without FDA approval.  The FDA warning letter said the company – based in San Diego, Calif. – also committed “significant deviations from current good tissue practice (CGTP) and current good manufacturing practice (CGMP) requirements, including some violations that may have led to microbial contamination, potentially causing serious blood infections in patients.”

The FDA letter said “Genetech processed umbilical cord blood into unapproved human cellular products” distributed by Liveyon, LLC.

Dangerous, Unapproved Stem Cell Products

The FDA warning also put other stem cell providers on notice.  It was pointedly titled:  “FDA sends warning to company for marketing dangerous unapproved stem cell products that put patients at risk and puts other stem cell firms, providers on notice.”

In September 2018, Liveyon suspended shipment of all product pending an FDA inquiry into the source of adverse reactions reported last year.  Liveyon also recalled all Genetech products it may have distributed.

E.coli Stem Cell Contamination

The recall came too late for some.  FDA reported on Dec. 20 that at least 12 people have suffered bacterial infections from contaminated stem cell therapy.  FDA said it was aware of a dozen patients who had received Genetech products from Liveyon and subsequently became ill due to blood and other infections caused by a number of bacteria, including Escherichia coli (E. coli).

The FDA and the CDC have both received “numerous reports of safety issues including those involving microbial contamination,” according to the FDA’s Dec. 20 warning letter.

The infections FDA found were described in a Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) titled “Notes from the Field:  Bloodstream Joint Infections in Patients after Receiving Bacterially Contaminated Umbilical Cord Blood-derived Stem Cell Products for Non-hematopoietic Conditions – United States, 2018.”

Significant Deviations

The FDA said that during its inspection it documented evidence of “significant deviations” from CGTP and CGMP requirements in the manufacture of the umbilical cord blood-derived products.  Those deviations included:

  • Deficient donor eligibility practices
  • Unvalidated manufacturing processes
  • Uncontrolled environment
  • Lack of control over components used in production
  • A lack of defined areas or a control system to prevent contamination and mix-ups

The FDA requested a response from Genetech within 15 working days of the letter’s release.  (That would be on or around Jan. 4, 2018). The response letter should detail how the deviations noted in the warning letter will be corrected.  FDA said deviations not corrected by companies and owners can lead to enforcement action such as seizure, injunction, or prosecution.

FDA:  Report Adverse Events

The FDA warning letter also said health care professionals and consumers should report any adverse events related to treatments with the Liveyon products, Genetech products, or other stem cell treatments.

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Illinois Catholic Church withheld 500 Accused Priests’ Names

(Dec. 27, 2018)  The Chicago Tribune reported last week that the Illinois Catholic Church withheld the names of at least 500 priests accused of sexual abuse of minors.  The Illinois attorney general accused the church of failing victims by neglecting to investigate their allegations.

Attorney General Lisa Madigan concluded in a preliminary report that Illinois’ Catholic dioceses are incapable of investigating themselves.  She said that church officials, “will not resolve the clergy sexual abuse crisis on their own.”

Ms. Madigan reported that 690 priests were accused of abuse, but the dioceses made only 185 names public of those who have been found credibly accused of abuse.

“The number of allegations above what was already public is shocking,” Ms. Madigan said.

The report is Illinois’ state prosecutors’ latest attempt to hold the Catholic Church accountable by examining the church’s own records. At least 16 state attorneys general have initiated various investigations since August 2018, which have included examination of the church’s own records.

The movement to uncover the truth about clergy sexual abuse of minors began in Illinois and other states across the country following a shocking Pennsylvania grand jury report which came out in the summer of 2018.  That was when the Pennsylvania grand jury accused more than 300 priests of sexual abuse over a 50-year span. And just as shocking, if not moreso, they also accused Catholic bishops of covering up the scandal, which some clergy abuse lawyers, as well as priests, have suggested goes all the way to the Vatican, and stems from a culture of corruption, even a “lavender mafia,” a secret gay culture within the church that at least one priest says runs the church.

Church covered for Abusers

Unlike Pennsylvania’s 1,356 pages of a grand jury report, Illinois’ nine-page report does not name accused priests or call out particular bishops for negligence.  It does, however, question the enormous gap between the number of accusations made by victims who dared to contact the church, and the number of accusations the church deemed credible.

Ms. Madigan’s office report noted that three-fourths of the allegations against clergy were either not investigated or were investigated but not substantiated by the dioceses papers turned over to the attorney general’s office.

A pattern emerged from the files: the dioceses often failed to find a claim credible if only one victim reported.  The dioceses also failed to investigate at all if the accused priest had died or been reassigned, or if he belonged to a religious order  – such as the Franciscans, Marists, or Jesuits. The report said the dioceses often discredited survivors’ claims by “focusing on the survivors’ personal lives,” which is a pattern that was also found in the Boston clergy abuse scandal that was uncovered by the Boston Globe’s Spotlight and made into a 2016 movie.

Church Cooperation

The Illinois report said that representatives of all six dioceses cooperated with the investigation by meeting with the attorney general and her staff.  The six voluntarily produced thousands of documents and gave access to hundreds of clergy files related to abuse allegations.

Once the attorney general’s office began investigating, the Illinois dioceses disclosed the names of 45 more clergymen deemed by the church to be credibly accused of sexual abuse.  Most were cases about which the dioceses had known for years.

Cardinal Apology

“I want to express again the profound regret of the whole church for our failures to address the scourge of clerical sexual abuse,” said Cardinal Blase J. Cupich, Chicago’s.  “It is the courage of victim-survivors that has shed purifying light on this dark chapter in church history.”

Roman Catholics have long dominated some Chicago neighborhoods and held a place in the political fabric of the city.  Thirty-three percent of Chicago-area residents are Catholic, ranking it among the top five most Catholic of American cities.

A spokeswoman in the Chicago area’s branch of SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests), Kate Bochte, said the idea that nearly three-quarters of the allegations were not deemed credible was a “huge indicator that the church is incapable” of investigating itself.

“[T]hink about all those people who came in – 75 percent of the people – what happened to them?” asked Ms. Bochte. “They were basically turned away after they explained the most difficult thing that had ever happened to them.”

300 More Victims?

Ms. Madigan said that survivors of abuse were owed a sense that their concerns were being pursued.  Since her office announced a hotline for survivors to report such abuse several months ago, 300 people have called.

The attorney general, who will leave office in a couple of weeks, also said she wanted to release her findings before the American bishops gather at Mundelein Seminary near Chicago in early January 2019.  About 300 bishops are expected at a weeklong spiritual retreat ordered by Pope Francis to pray and reflect on the church’s role in the sexual abuse of children.

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Third accuser: archdiocese knew of Houston-area sex abuse

(Dec. 21, 2018)  A third person has come forward this week to say that an archdiocese knew of sexual abuse allegations against a Houston-area priest, yet failed to take corrective action.

This third person has accused Manuel La Rosa-Lopez of molesting him in the early 1990s when the elder was a seminarian and he an altar boy at Houston’s St. Thomas More Catholic Church.

The man wished not to be identified.  He said that Manuel La Rosa-Lopez, then a seminarian, molested him in the early 1990s when he was just twelve years old.

A Houston Chronicle headline about the accused priest caught the 37-year-old man’s attention. He read the news on the web of a Richmond priest being arrested for decades-old claims that he had molested two children at a Conroe church.

The Chronicle reported that the third accuser hardly recognized the gray-haired man in the recent Montgomery County booking photo.  When he had last seen the accused priest, he was an altar boy at a Peruvian seminary, St. Thomas More Catholic Church in Houston.  That news report from September unearthed years of guilt and shame that he had long tried to bury.

“My heart just broke”

“My heart just broke,” the man told the Houston Chronicle.  He contacted the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office a few days later, becoming the third accuser to step forward with allegations of molestation against Father Manuel La Rosa-Lopez.  The clergyman became the center of a growing investigation this past summer of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston when he was accused by two others of sexual molestation.

Related:  Accused priests ID’d in Shalom Center Records

The latest allegations show that the leaders of the country’s fifth-largest diocese were aware of claims against La Rosa-Lopez as early as 1992, yet allowed him to be ordained into the ministry and move from church to church.

The priest’s lawyer did not respond on Dec. 20 to the Chronicle’s request for comment, though the church made a short statement yesterday:

“We cannot comment on this matter, which is still under investigation, except to say we are cooperating fully with law enforcement,” said church spokeswoman Jo Ann Zuniga.

The Chronicle reported that the father of four children sat in a Houston lawyer’s office last week and haltingly described the alleged abuse he suffered over a period of weeks at St. Thomas More.  For more than 25 years, he had kept the secret even from his wife.

“It completely engulfs your life,” the man said, breaking down in the office. “I really try to do the best I can to keep working, to keep being strong for my children.”

Accusers step forward

Mr. La Rosa-Lopez was arrested Sept. 11, 2018 on four charges of indecency with a child.  The charges stemmed from the man’s alleged abuse of two teens from 1998-2000 at Conroe’s Sacred Heart Catholic Church.

Those charges triggered three search warrants executed at the Shalom Center treatment facility in Splendora in eastern Montgomery County, along with two churches between Fort Bend County and Conroe.

Mr. La Rosa-Lopez was held in jail for two nights before being released on a $375,000 bond. He returned to court in October, but that hearing was postponed until January 2019 after Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office investigators requested more time to examine their seized records.

To the Vatican, if necessary

The investigation of Mr. La Rosa-Lopez continues.  Montgomery County DA Brett Ligon has vowed, if necessary, to go “all the way to the Vatican.”

The investigation escalated in Nov. 2018 with a surprise search of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston’s headquarters in downtown Houston. The exhaustive search warrant made scant mention of the third accuser (only by his initials), and the accused priest has not been charged in this third claim.

20 Priests Treated for Sex Abuse Problems

More than 20 priests were treated for sex abuse problems, according to the documents seized from the Shalom Center.  Police also seized several computers and files from the archdiocese offices of Cardinal Daniel DiNardo.  He was charged with overseeing the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.  His stewardship in that role is now being severely tested.

More than 70 dioceses nationwide have released lists of accused priests.  On Dec. 19 this week, the Illinois Attorney General’s Office announced the discovery of 500 more clergy members accused of sexual abuse, in addition to the 185 disclosed by the six dioceses. In Texas, each of the 15 Catholic Dioceses and the archdiocese announced in October 2018 that they would compile and release their own lists.

The Catholic church has announced that it is sticking to its plan to release the names of priests “credibly accused” of child sex abuse by Jan. 31, 2019, though the latest search warrant has left a stash of priest personnel records and boxes of “sex allegation files” in the hands of law enforcement. Some of the files were taken from a so-called vault at the archdiocese’s San Jacinto Street office.

Jonah Dycus, a spokesperson for the archdiocese, said, “We do not wish to compromise the integrity of this important work by discussing it before we have the full facts assembled.”

Cardinal DiNardo last month identified the Kinsale Management Consultants as the auditor tasked with tabulating the list. The firm is led by former FBI Executive Assistant Director Kathleen McChesney.

The church has pledged to give company “unfettered access” to archdiocese records, said Mr. Dycus.

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J&J knew Asbestos contaminated Baby Powder

(Dec. 12, 2018) A Reuters story this week shows Johnson & Johnson knew for decades that its baby powder was contaminated with asbestos.  Newly unearthed records show the company typically did not know – and plaintiff’s lawyers in several talc cancer lawsuits have argued the company did not want to know – exactly how much asbestos was contained in each batch.  Nevertheless, this latest Reuters research strongly suggests, and some would say “proves,” what several plaintiffs’ lawyers have argued in the courts – that J&J knew some of its talcum batches were contaminated with carcinogenic asbestos.

Though the company has successfully turned back some talc-cancer lawsuits, it has lost more jury verdicts than it has won. Going forward, the difference now may be that Reuters has turned up the evidence that some juries have found lacking in some of the talc-cancer trials against Johnson & Johnson.  The company has thus far been able to keep  juries from seeing most of this latest uncovered evidence of its internal communications regarding asbestos-tainted talc.

A Potential Game Changer

The internal documents Reuters just unearthed present a potential game changer for talc litigants. The documents which Reuters turned up show that J&J has known of its talc-asbestos contamination problem for at least 60 years.  The documents show J&J has been aware – at least since the late 1950s – of an asbestos-contaminated talcum problem.

In addition, the internal documents show J&J officials knew their talcum powder was sometimes tainted with carcinogenic asbestos, yet they kept that information from regulators and the public.

J&J documents Unavailable to Plaintiff
In one lawsuit directed against J&J for alleged talc-related ovarian cancer, 52-year-old Darlene Coker filed suit against the company.  Ms. Coker believed her mesothelioma was caused by her longtime use of J&J talcum powder.  She hadn’t worked in ship building, mining, manufacturing, or in any other industry which employs people prone to developing the deadly disease.  Ms. Coker ran a massage school in Lumberton, Texas.  How had she been exposed to asbestos?

Darlene Coker sued Johnson & Johnson in 1999, alleging “poisonous talc” in the company’s flagship product gave her mesothelioma, which would eventually kill her at age 63.

J&J denied the claim.  Its attorneys argued that J&J Baby Powder was asbestos-free.  As the case progressed, company attorneys were able to convince the judge not to make them hand over talc test results and other internal company records which the plaintiff demanded. Without that  evidence, Ms. Coker was forced to drop her lawsuit.  Without those documents, her lawyer could not establish the burden of proof placed by law on every plaintiff.

Nearly 20 years later, the evidence Ms. Coker needed is emerging.  J&J has now been compelled to share thousands of pages of company memos, internal reports and other confidential documents with plaintiffs’ lawyers who represent some 11,700 plaintiffs who claim J&J talc caused their cancers. Thousands of those women have ovarian cancer.

J&J Talc Tested Positive for Asbestos

Reuters examination of many of those documents, as well as deposition and trial testimony, show that from at least 1971 to the early 2000s, J&J’s raw talc and finished powders sometimes tested positive for small amounts of asbestos, though the company tested just a tiny portion of its powders.  Meanwhile, J&J executives, mine managers, scientists, doctors, and lawyers fretted over the problem and how to address it.  And all the while they failed to disclose their concerns to regulators or the public.

J&J silenced Regulators

The documents also show J&J’s successful efforts to influence U.S. regulators’ plans to limit asbestos in cosmetic talc products, and limit scientific research on the health effects of talc.

Previous Trials lacked this evidence
Lawyers for plaintiffs in several talc-cancer trials so far have been able to present only a small portion of the documents the Reuters study has unearthed. J&J has been able to keep many documents from public view by court orders that allowed the company to turn over thousands of documents it designated as “confidential.”

They are confidential no more, at least not to the public. Reuters reports much of their contents for the first time. Reuters found that J&J first mentioned talc-asbestos contamination in 1957 and 1958 reports from a consulting lab. Those reports described contaminants in talc from J&J’s Italian supplier as fibrous and “acicular,” or needle-like, tremolite. Tremolite is one of the six minerals classified as asbestos in their naturally occurring fibrous form.
From those late 1950 to the early 2000s, reports by scientists at J&J, outside labs and J&J’s supplier found similar results. Those reports identified contaminants in talc and finished powder products as asbestos or describe them in terms typically applied to asbestos, such as “fiberform” and “rods.”

J&J Fails to Inform FDA of Talc-Asbestos Contamination
In one more bombshell from the documents, when the FDA was weighing limits on asbestos in cosmetic talc products, J&J assured FDA that no asbestos was “detected in any sample” of talc produced from December 1972 to October 1973. J&J failed to tell FDA that at least three tests by three different labs from 1972 to 1975 had found asbestos in its talc – in one case at levels reported as “rather high.”

Whether this newly released information will find its way into the court rooms in this litigation is uncertain. For now, it is enough to give those litigants hope who believe their ovarian cancer or mesothelioma was caused by exposure to J&J talc products.

Johnson & Johnson Response

Johnson & Johnson, meanwhile, says that releasing these documents shows the care the company takes to ensure its products are asbestos free.  J&J says it will appeal the recent verdicts against it. The company has maintained in public statements that its talc is safe.  It says years of the best tests available show its talc is safe.

J&J has blamed its losses on juror confusion, “junk” science, unfair court rules, plaintiffs’ attorneys.  J&J’s vice president of global media relations, Ernie Knewitz, emailed a response to Reuters’ findings: “Plaintiffs attorneys out for personal financial gain are distorting historical documents and intentionally creating confusion in the courtroom and in the media.  This is all a calculated attempt to distract from the fact that thousands of independent tests prove our talc does not contain asbestos or cause cancer.  Any suggestion that Johnson & Johnson knew or hid information about the safety of talc is false.”

Reuter’s reported that it tried for more than two months to have Johnson & Johnson executives comment further for this latest article.  The executives refused.  J&J did tell Reuters it would have one of its experts contact the news agency, but no J&J expert contacted Reuters for nearly a week. Finaly, one J&J expert said that he would not comment.

Johnson & Johnson referred all inquiries to its outside litigation counsel, Peter Bicks. In responses emailed to Reuters, Mr. Bicks rejected the new agency’s findings as “false and misleading.”

“The scientific consensus is that the talc used in talc-based body powders does not cause cancer, regardless of what is in that talc,” wrote Mr. Bicks.  “This is true even if – and it does not – Johnson & Johnson’s cosmetic talc had ever contained minute, undetectable amounts of asbestos.” Mr. Bicks dismissed tests cited in this article as “outlier” results.

Talc Asbestos Cancer Lawsuits

Nearly 12,000 talc asbestos cancer lawsuits have now been filed across the country.

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Camp Fire Suit: PG&E Equipment caused Blaze

(Dec. 10, 2018)  A Camp Fire lawsuit filed Dec. 6 alleges that PG&E equipment caused the tragic blaze. The suit says a jumper cable and tower failure caused the fire which killed 85 people, severely burned 11o others, displaced more than 150,000 residents, and destroyed more than 18,000 structures, including most of the town of Paradise. Some 150,000 total acres of land were burned in the tragic blaze, the worst fire disaster in California’s history. 

 

 

PG&E has been named as the principal defendant in several lawsuits filed thus far – including a recent Butte County filing – though Cal Fire has yet to draw any definite causation conclusion(s). The Sacramento Bee reported that a lawsuit filed last Friday attempts to better pinpoint the fire’s cause.  It focuses on a jumper cable that attorneys say came into contact with a steel tower and ignited the blaze.   

Filed on behalf of 34 plaintiffs, the lawsuit petition says an extension arm that jutted from the tower was supposed to have kept the electrified jumper cable from making contact with the tower itself.  The lawsuit claims that that extension failed, which caused the cable to contact the tower and trigger the catastrophe.

 The petition reads:  “Blazing hot molten materials dropped into the fine dead fuels below the conductor igniting the devastating Camp Fire.”

PG&E disclosed Problem before Blaze Began

 A day after the fire destroyed most of Paradise, PG&E disclosed to the Public Utilities Commission that a 115-kilovolt line experienced a problem in the vicinity of where the Camp Fire was reported, about 15 minutes before the blaze began.  But PG&E offered no specifics about the problem. 

 Cal Fire allowed private investigators to inspect the tower, which is located in a remote area called Pulga, some 10 miles northeast of Paradise. But Cal Fire and PG&E crews had partially disassembled the tower before the inspection.  They had removed sections of the jumper cable and the tower extension, taking that part into custody.

 NBC Bay Area said it was unclear what caused the cable to contact the tower.  Unidentified sources said a steel hook mounted on the extension may have failed, allowing the jumper line to come free and contact the tower.

 The lawsuit faults “PG&E’s failure to properly inspect and maintain the tower.”  An attorney for the 34 plaintiffs said that PG&E does not use insulated lines between its transmission towers because of expense and weight.  He said insulated lines would have prevented the Camp Fire tragedy.  

Towers Collapse

PG&E’s aging infrastructure is believed by many fire experts to be a central cause of the Camp Fire blaze.  In 2012, several PG&E transmission towers collapsed for reasons that are still uncertain, though their age is suspected as a probable cause.  The tower being investigated in the Camp Fire tragedy is believed to be at least 80 years old, and perhaps as old as 100.

PG&E fined

 PG&E was fined $8.3 million in 2017 by the PUC for failing to properly maintain a12-kilovolt electrical line blamed for igniting the Butte Fire which killed two people and burned 921 homes and other buildings in Amador County in 2015.  PUC said an electrical line contacted a44-foot-tall pine tree that should have been identified by PG&E as hazardous and trimmed or removed.

PG&E linked to 2017 Wine Country Fires  

 PG&E faces billions in claims from the wine country fires which killed 44 people in October 2017.  Cal Fire cited PG&E equipment problems for 16 of the wine country fires.  It has not yet assigned a cause for the Tubbs Fire in Santa Rosa, the deadliest of the 2017 fires.

“Reclosers”Problems

 PG&E’s “reclosers” continue to garner scrutiny from utility safety regulators. Reclosers are designed to remotely re-energize power lines after service disruptions, but their safety is in doubt.  Reclosers reportedly contributed to the 2017 Witch Fire in San Diego, but it remains uncertain whether they played a role in the 2017 wine country fires or the 2018 Camp Fire. PG&Ehas acknowledge problems with reclosers, stating publicly a company pledge to expand“our practice of disabling line reclosers and circuit breakers in high fire-risk areas during fire season.”

That pledge was part of a wide-ranging plan begun this year to improve fire safety.  Other measures included deliberate blackouts when conditions turn dry and winds dangerous. PG&E did shut off power to 60,000 customers earlier in 2018 as a safety measure, but just canceled a second planned shutdown across portions of northern California that included Butte County just before the fire ignited.

Tree Trimming Problems

Another lawsuit just filed in Butte County also focuses on PG&E’s tree-trimming practices, or its alleged failure to trim potentially dangerous trees and shrubs.  PG&E was convicted of 739 misdemeanor counts of criminal negligence in 1997 for failure to trim trees in Nevada County,which suffered the Traunter Fire as a result of that failure.

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Wildfires Lawsuit Filed in Butte County

(Dec. 5, 2018)  Lawyers filed suit Nov. 30, 2018 in Butte County Superior Court of California in Chico.  The plaintiff is a woman who lost her home in the California wildfires which began Nov. 8, 2018  in Paradise, Calif.  The suit charges California Pacific Gas & Electric with inverse condemnation, negligence,  premises liability, trespass, public nuisance, private nuisance, and several other causes of action.  The petition names only PG&E, but leaves the woman’s lawyers room to add as many as 50 more defendants “when they are ascertained.”   The suit was filed by Peter de la Cerda of Matthews & Associates Law Firm.

 

 

The petition states:

“The Camp Fire devastated the towns of Paradise, Magalia, Pulga, Mineral Slide, Irish Towh, Centerville, Parkhill, and Concow, and terrorized several neighboring towns including Oroville, Gridley and Chico.  To date, the Camp Fire has killed 81 people, making it the deadliest fire in California history.  (The fire) burned 117,000 acres and destroyed 18,000 structures, more than the next seven worst fires combined.  More than 150,000 residents have been displaced from their homes as a result of the Camp Fire and more than 200 people are unaccounted for.  Particularly hard hit was the town of Paradise where 80 to 90 percent of the homes were destroyed.”

The Camp Fire was the single largest California wildfire in the state’s history.  The petition claims that, “PG&E knew or should have known that a breach of those standards and duties constituted negligence and would expose members of the general public to risk of death, injury, and damage to their property.”

PG&E History of Safety Failures

The lawsuit further states that “PG&E has developed a regular pattern of placing its own profits before the safety of the California residents it serves and has demonstrated no intention of changing this pattern.”

The suit lists several other episodes in which PG&E was alleged to be at the center of “safety lapses that caused injury and death to California residents, and destroyed or damaged property.”  That list includes:

  • A 1992 Santa Rosa Gas Explosion that killed two people and injured three.
  • A 1994 Trauner Fire that burned down an historic schoolhouse and 12 homes. A Nevada County jury found PG&E guilty of 739 counts of criminal negligence.  PG&E was forced to pay $24 million in penalties.  A 1998 CPUC report showed PG&E had diverted $77.6 million from its tree-trimming budget to other uses from 1987 to 1994. In that same time, PG&E underspent its authorized maintenance budgets by $495 million, using that money instead to boost corporate profits.
  • A 1999 Pendola Fire that occurred when PG&E failed to remove a rotten pine. It burned for 11 days and scorched 11,725 acres, mostly in Tahoe and Plumas national forests. PG&E paid a $14.75 million settlement to the U.S. Forest Service in 2009, and also reached a $22.7 million settlement with CPUC.
  • A 2003 Mission Substation Electrical Fire that burned for two hours and 1/3 of San Francisco lost power. A CPUC report concluded, “PG&E did not implement its own recommendations from its own investigation of the 1996 fire.”
  • A 2004 Sims fire that burned more than 4,000 acres of forest land in Six Rivers and Trinity National Forests. A federal suit alleged PG&E failed to remove a decaying tree, which fell on a transmission line and began the blaze.
  • A 2010 San Bruno Gas Explosion that killed eight people and injured 58 as it destroyed an entire neighborhood. NTSB issued a report that blamed PG&E’s poor pipeline management.  In April 2015, CPUC slapped PG&E with a $1.6 billion fine for causing the explosion and diverting maintenance funds into stockholder dividends and executive bonuses.  In Jan. 2017, a federal jury found PG&E guilty of six felony charges. The judge ordered PG&E to pay $3 million in fines for causing the explosion, and ordered the company to submit to court supervision of its natural gas operations.
  • A 2015 San Francisco Electrical Explosion that injured two people, one critically.
  • A 2015 Butte Fire in Calaveras County that ignited when a weak grey pine tree that PG&E should have removed struck a 12,0000-volt PG&E-owned power line. The fire burned for 22 days; killed two people; destroyed more than 70,000 acres; destroyed and/or damaged 475 residences, 343 outbuildings, and 45 other structures.   Thousands were forced to evacuate their homes.
  • The 2017 North Bay Fires that began when PG&E-owned equipment contacted vegetation due to “PG&E’s disregard of mandated safety practices and the foreseeable risks associated with its infrastructure.” These fires killed at least 43 people, injured many others, burned more than 245,000 acres, destroyed more than 14, 700 homes.

2013 Liberty Report

The petition also details the role of a consulting group hired to investigate PG&E’s safety practices in order to improve on them.   The Liberty Consulting Group sent a report to the Safety and Enforcement Division of the CPUC in May 2013.  Liberty concluded that “several aspects of the PG&E distribution system present significant safety issues.”  Liberty found that, “addressing aging infrastructure and adding SCADA to the [PG&E] system comprise the major focuses of safety initiatives for the distribution system.”

After the Liberty Report, PG&E began to state publicly that it was treating wildfires as an enterprise-level risk.

“However,” reads the petition, “the methodology used by PG&E to evaluate the severity of that risk was, and is, unscientific and not based on valid statistical methodology.  Instead, PG&E’s method is to engage in a group discussion where an agreement is reached on a specific risk level based on personal opinion, anecdotal evidence, and factual misconceptions.  This process has led to PG&E’s failure to properly evaluate the frequency and severity of the risk posed by wildfires.”

The petition also notes that a 2014 audit of PG&E’s North Valley Division revealed that between 2009 and 204 there were more than 3,400 PG&E repair and maintenance requests in the area of the Camp Fire that were completed past the date of the scheduled action.

Further, 44 fires in Butte County were caused by electrical equipment from 2006-2016. In 2015, electrical power problems sparked the burning of 149,241 acres across California, more than twice the number from any other cause.

A 2017 CPUC report found “Poorly maintained poles and attachments have caused substantial property damage and repeated loss of life in this State.”

The petition further charges that PG&E instituted a “Run to Failure” approach to maintenance that included its purchasing insurance coverage to cover punitive damages in amounts that exceed hundreds of millions of dollars.

“PG&E purchased insurance policies that cover punitive damages for the purpose of providing corporate security at the cost of public safety,” the law suit alleges. “This contributed to a culture of reckless disregard for the safety of the residents of Northern and Central California and contributed to the cause of the Camp Fire.”

Do PG&E Profits trump Safety Issues?

The lawsuit also alleges that “PG&E’s corporate culture is the root cause of the Camp Fire. (Rather) than spend the money it obtains from customers for infrastructure maintenance and safety, PG&E funnels this funding to boost its own corporate profits and compensation.”

In one of the most incendiary allegations of the petition, the suit claims, “PG&E has implemented multiple programs that provide monetary incentives to its employees, agents and/or contractors to not protect public safety.  Prior to the Butte Fire, PG&E chose to provide a monetary incentive to its contractors to cut fewer trees, even though PG&E was required to have an inspection program in place that removed dangerous trees and reduced the risk of wildfires.”

PG&E Response

PG&E officials have noted publicly that the cause of the fires is still being investigated.  No definitive conclusions have yet been drawn.

California Wildfires Lawsuit Filed in Butte County

The case is 18CV03874,  Deborah Glass vs. PG&E Corporation, et al.  It is filed in Butte County Superior Court of California.

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Gluten Intolerance Glyphosate Intolerance

Study blames Roundup for gluten intolerance and celiac disease epidemic

Roundup and Celiac Disease

“Here, we propose that glyphosate, the active ingredient in the herbicide, Roundup®, is the most important causal factor in this epidemic,” concluded the authors of a research paper which examined nearly 300 studies.

The researchers wrote in their meta-analysis that “Celiac disease and gluten intolerance present a growing problem worldwide, but especially in North America and Europe, where an estimated 5% of the population now suffers from it.”

The Celiac Disease Foundation says Celiac disease is believed to affect as many as 3.2 million Americans, an estimated 2.5 million of whom remain undiagnosed.

What is Celiac Disease?

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that damages the small intestine and inhibits absorption of nutrients.  Celiac disease tends to run in families, but it does not follow a specific inheritance pattern.  It is not always inherited (as most diseases are not inherited, but environmental, including cancer); certain genes are, however, more likely to cause an autoimmune reaction to gluten.

The University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center claims that a person must have two genes found on the HLA-class II complex, called DQ2 and DQ8 to have celiac disease.  Gluten sensitivity, by contrast, can typically occur in people without a family history of the disorder.

A Shocking Shift in Thinking

This study implies that everything we think we know about Celiac disease and gluten intolerance is wrong.  That is a shocking conclusion, so why haven’t we heard more about it?

Published in the journal Interdisciplinary Toxicology in 2013, it was completely ignored by all major mediaMother Earth News and The Healthy Home Economist covered it, but since those aren’t publications that get national attention, the story has remained quiet, even blacked out by mainstream media.  All that may be changing.  Internet magazines, news blogs, videos, and movies across the digital spectrum are increasingly making it more difficult for Monsanto’s mainstream media minions (see Monsanto’s paid “journalist”) and academic shills to keep the lid on the burning Monsanto Roundup story.

Related:  Monsanto attacks Science

Spotlight catches Monsanto

Monsanto’s glyphosate (from Roundup and other pesticide poison products) is at last getting the attention it deserves.  Monsanto was hit with a  $279 million cancer lawsuit verdict this past summer.  California listed glyphosate – the main listed active ingredient in Roundup — as a probable human carcinogen after the World Health Organization declared it was back in 2015.

Gluten Intolerance Glyphosate Intolerance

The paradigm-shifting 2013 study was authored by Anthony Samsel, an independent scientist who has served as a consultant to the EPA on arsenic pollution and to the U.S. Coast Guard on chemical hazard response, and Stephanie Seneff, a senior research scientist at MIT.

So-called Gluten Intolerance

The scientists said that symptoms of so-called “gluten intolerance” and celiac disease are shockingly similar to the symptoms in lab animals exposed to glyphosate.  They reference a recent study that shows how glyphosate affects fish’ digestive systems. Glyphosate was shown to decrease digestive enzymes and bacteria, disrupt mucosal folds, destroy microvilli structure in the intestinal wall, increase mucin secretion.

The scientists wrote: “These features are highly reminiscent of celiac disease.”

Celiac Disease Parallels Glyphosate Use

Furthermore, the number of people diagnosed with gluten intolerance and celiac disease has risen in proportion to increased glyphosate use in agriculture, especially with the recent practice of  drenching grains in the herbicide right before harvest.  That troubling practice began  in the 1980s.  It became routine in the 1990s.  Here’s a look at the glyphosate Celiac disease parallels:

Some say the Celiac disease surge is due to better diagnostic tools (which occurred around 2000), a recent study suggests that’s not a solid retort.

Four-Fold Increase in Celiac Disease

In 2009, researchers looked for gluten antibodies in frozen immune serum obtained between 1948 and 1954 for gluten antibodies.  They compared those with samples taken from people today. They found a 4-fold increase in the incidence of celiac disease in the younger people.

Further Evidence of Celiac Glyphosate Link

The researchers also shared these points:

•  “Celiac disease is associated with imbalances in gut bacteria that can be fully explained by the known effects of glyphosate on gut bacteria.”

•  “Celiac disease is associated with the impairment of cytochrome P450 enzymes. Glyphosate is known to inhibit cytochrome P450 enzymes.”

•   “Deficiencies in iron, cobalt, molybdenum, copper and other rare metals associated with celiac disease can be attributed to glyphosate’s strong ability to chelate these elements.”

•   “Deficiencies in tryptophan, tyrosine, methionine and selenomethionine associated with celiac disease match glyphosate’s known depletion of these amino acids.”

•   “Celiac disease patients also have a known increased risk for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which has also been implicated in glyphosate exposure.”

•   “The incidence of non-Hodgkins lymphoma has increased rapidly in most Western countries over the last few decades. Statistics from the American Cancer Society show an 80% increase since the early 1970’s, when glyphosate was first introduced on the market.”

•   “Reproductive issues associated with celiac disease, such as infertility, miscarriages, and birth defects, can also be explained by glyphosate.”

The scientists also say that glyphosate residues in grain, sugar and other crops are increasing recently likely due to the growing practice of crop desiccation just prior to harvest.  This  secretive, illegal poisoning practice has become routine among conventional farmers since the 1990s.

This arcane practice increases yields by killing the crops, which causes them to release their seeds in their death throes as they struggle to survive the poison onslaught.

Does Roundup Desiccation (Desecration?) drive Celiac Disease?

Farmers use Roundup to “desiccate” most conventional (non organic) crops grown in the U.S. This is a dirty little secret in U.S. farming as well as in the UK and other places where “efficiency” and corporate farming lord it over the health concerns of sentient beings.

Since the 1980s, farmers around the world have been using Roundup and other pesticides to dessicate their fields before harvest.   So, sadly, even if one is buying non-GMO corn, wheat, soy, or other common crop staples, one is likely ingesting Roundup with that food.   Farmers dessicate before harvest to dry up the crop, to dry it out to kill it all at once for “better” harvests – better for “production” and “profits,” but decidedly not better for the animals  and people who eat those crops, or breathe in the pesticides.  (EPA also classifies herbicides as pesticides)

Along with wheat and oats, farmers use glyphosate to desiccate a wide range of other crops including lentils, peas, non-GMO soybeans, corn, flax, rye, triticale, buckwheat, millet, canola, sugar beets, and potatoes. Even sunflowers may be treated pre-harvest with glyphosate, according to the National Sunflower Association.  See the desiccation/desecration story here.

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Camp Fire Lawsuit Filed

(Nov. 21, 2018)  Paradise, Calif. residents filed suit Nov. 13, 2018 against California Pacific Gas & Electric in San Francisco Superior Court.  Their lawsuit alleges that PG&E’s negligence and faulty equipment generated the deadly Camp Fire.  The tragedy has so far burned more than 130,000 acres in Butte County, destroyed thousands of homes, and killed dozens of people.

The suit, titled “Quammen Et Al vs. PGE,” lists 25 plaintiffs.  They are described as “an owner and/or occupants of real property damaged by the Camp Fire.”

Suit claims PG&E Line Failed

The lawsuit petition attacks PG&E’s safety record.  It claims, “[T]he Camp Fire started when a high-voltage transmission line failed, igniting vegetation.”  The lawsuit is attempting to saddle PG&E with legal liability for the most destructive fire in California history.

Camp Fire’s Cause still undetermined

Despite the suit’s allegations, the cause of the Camp Fire has not yet been determined. California Fire did, however, determine that PG&E equipment did spark similarly destructive California wildfires in 2017.

KQED reported that PG&E recorded “an incident early Thursday, Nov. 8, just before the fire began.  The incident involved a major electrical transmission line at a remote site in Butte County.  That incident report came just minutes before the reported start of the Camp Fire.

In addition to that oddly-timed report, just hours before the fire spread, PG&E announced via a November 8 press release that it had decided to cancel a previously proposed service suspension to some Northern California households as an anti-fire measure.  The timing could hardly have been more ironic, or more odd, or perhaps coincidental if PG&E were to turn out to have no responsibility or liability in the latest tragic California fires.

PG&E Statement

The company’s statement just prior to the start of the fires read:

“Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) has determined that it will not proceed with plans today for a Public Safety Power Shutoff in portions of eight Northern California counties, as weather conditions did not warrant this safety measure.”

On Tuesday, PG&E began notifying approximately 70,000 customers in portions of Northern California of the potential that the company would turn off power for safety given forecasts of extreme fire danger conditions. PG&E will now notify customers […] that the potential Public Safety Power Shutoff has been canceled.

That statement and the nearly unbelievable timing of it do not look good for PG&E, in terms of the company’s potential liability.  However, both people and corporations in the U.S. are, by law,  presumed innocent of any wrongdoing until proven guilty.

Nevertheless, California fire investigators as well lawyers who have filed the first lawsuits in these fires have yet to prove exactly what caused the fires.

Cause of Fires Undetermined

PG&E spokesperson Mayra Tostado told Curbed SF: “It’s important to remember that the cause has yet to be determined.  (We) are aware of lawsuits regarding the Camp Fire.”  Ms. Tostado wished to emphasize PG&E’s efforts to restore service rather than comment on the complaint.

The California plaintiffs who filed suit over the fires allege that PG&E has a damning record of maintenance oversights that regularly creates dangerous conditions for the company’s customers.  Their petition includes some very emotional language.  It reads, in part:

“PG&E has a duty to manage, maintain, repair, and/or replace its aging infrastructure to protect public safety. These objectives could and should have been accomplished in a number of ways. […] PG&E knew or should have known that a breach of those standards and duties constituted negligence and would expose members of the general public to risk of death, injury, and damage to their property. PG&E’s safety record is an abomination.”

PG&E Lawsuit filed over Camp Fire

This latest PG&E lawsuit petition cites at least 18 separate fires and explosions caused by PG&E infrastructure since 1991.  It includes the tragic 2010 San Bruno gas explosion that left eight people dead.

The recent northern California fires have also sparked other, similar lawsuits.  The Sacramento Bee reported on a Butte County appraiser who is also planning legal action.

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