Texas Worker Safety is the Worst

Workplace Deaths Decline, But Texas Still Fares Worst

Hurting for Work


How disdain for government regulation sparked a “Texas miracle” economy — while tearing down protections for the workers who built it.

Texas saw a decline in the number of people killed on the job in 2013, but the state still leads the nation in workplace fatalities, according to preliminary government data released Thursday.

There were 493 fatal work injuries in Texas in 2013, compared with 536 a year earlier, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported. That represents a decline of about 8 percent. The 2013 figures are considered preliminary and will be revised in the spring.

As the Texas Tribune reported in its Hurting For Work series this summer, Texas has led the nation in worker fatalities for seven of the last 10 years. That trend held firm with the release of the 2013 data. Stretching back to 2000, Texas has experienced more job fatalities than any other state for 10 of those 14 years.

Other large U.S. states had significantly fewer workplace fatalities last year: California had 385, while Florida had 234 and New York had 160. (It’s worth noting that Texas has experienced comparatively high employment over the last decade. Since 2003, a third of the net new jobs created in the United States were in Texas).

While fatalities fell overall nationwide last year, deaths among Latino workers went up 7 percent nationwide between 2012 and 2013 — or 797 last year compared to 748 the year before. Texas has a large Hispanic workforce, particularly in the construction industry, but racial and ethnic breakdowns by state weren’t available Thursday.

Transportation accidents, accounting for 213 deaths, caused the most workplace fatalities in Texas, followed by contact with objects and equipment, 76; falls, slips and trips, 73; violence by persons or animals, 66; fires and explosions, 32; and exposure to harmful substances or environments, 31.

Heavy truck and tractor-trailer drivers proved to be the most dangerous occupation in Texas in 2013, accounting for 104 incidents, the data shows.

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Mesothelioma Verdict of $18.6 Million for Worker at Kelly Springfield/Goodyear Plant in Tyler, Texas

Tyler Morning Telegraph – Family gets $18.6M Goodyear mesothelioma case

The family of a Tyler man, who died after contracting mesothelioma after years of exposure working at the Kelly Springfield/Goodyear plant, was awarded $18.6 million by a Dallas County jury last week, and attorneys for the plaintiff said the amount was warranted.

Christopher J. Panatier, of the Dallas-based law firm Simon Greenstone Panatier and Bartlett, said Goodyear plainly ignored standards set in place in 1972 by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

“Carl Rogers worked at the plant for 30 years before being diagnosed with mesothelioma, a deadly cancer caused by exposure to asbestos fibers. Jurors found Goodyear grossly negligent for allowing Mr. Rogers’ continued exposure to asbestos,” he said.

Mr. Rogers worked as a tire builder at the Kelly-Springfield Tire Co. in Tyler, a Goodyear subsidiary. He worked with Goodyear machines that exposed him to asbestos on a constant basis. He was further exposed to asbestos-wrapped piping while maintenance work was happening at the plant. Mr. Rogers was diagnosed with mesothelioma in August 2008 and died in September 2009.

Panatier said the verdict, which was handed up in the Dallas County Court At Law 5, includes $2.7 million in non-economic damages, $900,000 in economic damages and $15 million in punitive damages.

“Mr. Rogers’ family just wanted a jury to hear the story of their husband and father. He did nothing wrong and still died because his employer did not protect him,” he said. “Goodyear plainly ignored OSHA standards to protect workers from asbestos disease and never dealt honestly with them.”

Panatier said Goodyear admitted during the trial that the levels of asbestos were 10 to 100 times greater than the average person would breathe outside of the plant.

He said three other former workers at the plant have been diagnosed with mesothelioma.

“The mesothelioma rate is usually one case per million people, so to have four at one plant is about a 900 percent increase to those having the disease,” he said.

Panatier said he believes there may been an appeal filed in the case, but that could take up to six months.

Written by Kenneth Dean, kdean@tylerpaper.com

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Verdict for 73 Million against Boston Scientific by Dallas County, Texas Jury

Great News for Victims of Vaginal Mesh Products!

Boston Scientific Corp. (BSX) was ordered to pay $73 million to a woman who said a defectively designed vaginal-mesh implant left her in constant pain, in the first award against the device maker over its incontinence slings.

Boston Scientific is liable for Martha Salazar’s injuries, which she blamed on the company’s Obtryx sling, jurors in Texas state court in Dallas said yesterday. They awarded her about $23 million in compensatory damages and $50 million in punitive damages, according to a court filing.

Boston Scientific had won the first two cases to reach trial over the Obtryx sling. The Natick, Massachusetts-based company faces more than 12,000 lawsuits in which women contend its vaginal mesh implants, including the slings, erode within the body. Organs may be damaged and pain can result, requiring surgery to remove the device, according to patients who sued.

“This woman was seeking help with minor urine leakage and wound up with a catastrophic, life-altering injury that required four major surgeries,” Salazar’s lawyer Dave Matthews said in a telephone interview. “It’s a tragedy that these slings are still on the market.”

Matthews said his client, a former property manager, can no longer sit comfortably or walk or exercise normally as a result of her injuries. Boston Scientific disagrees with the verdict and will appeal, saidKelly Leadem, a company spokeswoman.

FDA Order

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration ordered Boston Scientific, Johnson & Johnson (JNJ)and more than 30 other vaginal-implant makers in 2012 to study rates of organ damage and complications linked to the products. Many of the cases against Boston Scientific, J&J and C.R. Bard (BCR) Inc. have been consolidated before U.S. District Judge Joseph Goodwin in Charleston, West Virginia. Others have been filed in state courts in Delaware, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Missouri, Texas and California.

Boston Scientific and other makers of vaginal inserts targeted in suits had talks this year about settling cases over the devices, according to people familiar with the discussions.

Endo International Plc (ENDP) agreed in April to pay $830 million to resolve about 20,000 lawsuits alleging its vaginal-mesh inserts eroded in some women and left them incontinent and in pain.

Gross Negligence

Juries in New Jersey and West Virginia over the past year have ruled that J&J and Bard implants caused women’s injuries and ordered the companies to pay a total of more than $13 million in damages.

In Salazar’s case, the Dallas jury returned with a verdict the same day it began deliberations, finding Boston Scientific’s sling suffered from a faulty design. The panel also found company officials failed to properly warn patients and doctor’s about the insert’s health risks.

Jurors said Boston Scientific’s handling of the slings amounted to gross negligence, which Mathews said allowed the jury to award punitive-damages.

During the two-week trial before Texas District Judge Ken Molberg, Matthews said he asked the jury to award Salazar $14 million for her injuries and her pain and suffering.

As part of the evidence in the case, Matthews presented an August 2000 e-mail from Alex Robbins, a Boston Scientific executive, in which he tells salespeople to ignore a company-funded study raising questions about the sling’s safety.

“I certainly wouldn’t hand this out to any physicians,” Robbins said in the e-mail.

The case is Salazar v. Lopez, No. DC-1214349, District Court for Dallas County, 95th Judicial District of Texas (Dallas).

To contact the reporter on this story: Jef Feeley in Wilmington, Delaware atjfeeley@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net David E. Rovella, Sophia Pearson

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