Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Committee OKs Death Penalty Repeal

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Committee OKs Death Penalty Repeal

By Dan Boyd
Journal Capitol Bureau
SANTA FE — The latest effort to repeal New Mexico's death penalty edged past a key legislative gatekeeper on Monday and headed for a crucial Senate vote.
The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 6-5 in favor of replacing the death penalty with life in prison without parole, advancing the measure to the full Senate.
Passage by the 42-member Senate during the 12 days remaining in the legislative session would send the measure to Gov. Bill Richardson, whose past support for the death penalty may have softened. Approval of the legislation would make New Mexico the 15th state in the nation to abolish capital punishment.
"We are cautiously optimistic about the vote on the floor," said Michelle Giger, a member of the New Mexico branch of Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation. "We have a way better chance than we did before."
All four Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee voted against the bill Monday and were joined by Sen. Richard Martinez, D-EspaƱola. The six other Democrats on the committee voted for the bill.
"I do believe that the death penalty is a deterrent," Martinez said. "In my heart, I think it is."
The measure to repeal the death penalty — House Bill 285 — passed the House of Representatives 40-28 on Feb. 11, and a full Senate vote could come later this week.
Although Richardson previously has opposed attempts to abolish the death penalty, he's staying open to the idea this time around, said Eric Witt, Richardson's legislative liaison.
"The governor continues to weigh all sides on this issue," Witt said Monday. "I don't expect him to make up his mind until, and if, it gets to his desk."
Among those arguing to repeal the New Mexico death penalty Monday was Sam Millsap, a former district attorney in San Antonio, Texas, who told committee members he harbors doubts about whether a man executed under his watch in 1993 was actually guilty.
"I oppose the death penalty because my experience shows me the greatest criminal justice system in the world is simply not competent to decide who may live and who may die," said Millsap, a former death penalty supporter.
Opponents of repeal who testified Monday said they believe having the death penalty serves as a deterrent and raised questions about the argument that doing away with it would save the state money.
"We will continue to pay defense attorneys who are trying to get people off life without parole," said Lemuel Martinez, who represents Valencia, Sandoval and Cibola counties as New Mexico's 13th Judicial District Attorney.
Twenty-six people have been executed in New Mexico since 1912. However, the state hasn't executed an inmate since 2001, when Terry Clark received a lethal injection for abducting and murdering 9-year-old Dena Lynn Gore in Artesia.
Two individuals are now on death row — Robert Fry of Farmington and Timothy Allen of Bloomfield.
There have been repeated efforts in New Mexico to repeal the death penalty, but supporters say 2009 may represent their best chance yet. Democrats increased their numbers in the 2008 elections and now outnumber Republicans 72-40 in the Legislature. Meanwhile, cost-savings arguments, stemming mostly from the expense of lengthy death penalty appeals and legal work, might be carrying greater weight given the troubled state of economy.
"We're very optimistic," said Allen Sanchez, executive director of the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops, which supports a repeal of the death penalty.
The bill's sponsor, Rep. Gail Chasey, D-Albuquerque, has introduced legislation that would provide $1.5 million annually in compensation for murder victims' families, and said doing away with the death penalty doesn't equate to greater leniency.
"We are not excusing terribly violent murders, by any means," Chasey said. "We believe society should be protected."
Opponents of the bill, including Senate Minority Whip William Payne, R-Albuquerque, aren't convinced.
"The problem I've always had with this bill is the police officers and the corrections officers," Payne said. "We may lock (those convicted) away for life, but we don't lock them away from people for life."

Lilly Close to $1.4 Billion Settlement over Zyprexa

U.S. drug maker Eli Lilly is close to settling criminal and civil charges that it promoted a drug, Zyprexa, for unauthorized uses.

The company is expected to settle the claims for $1.4 billion, according to reports on Wednesday.

The company was charged with promoting the drug, an anti-psychotic, for use among children and the elderly, although it was not approved for use with those categories of patients.

For the elderly, the company promoted the drug to nursing homes to calm patients and make "nursing time and effort" easier, court documents claimed.

Court filings say Zyprexa was also promoted for use among hard-to-control children.

Among the elderly, the drug could be life threatening, increasing the risk of heart failure, sources reported. Among children, the drug's side effects of causing severe weight gain and metabolic disorders is elevated.

A company spokeswoman, Angela Sekson, declined to comment on the pending settlement. Patricia Hartman, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, the office prosecuting the case, also declined comment.

Nearly 50 People Hospitalized After Wal-Mart Evacuation

Police in Germantown, Wisconsin plan to review surveillance video in an attempt to find out who is responsible for releasing a chemical believed to have made nearly 50 people sick at a local Wal-Mart.

Twenty-five people were taken by ambulance to area hospitals Thursday. Twenty-two others went on their own to the hospital to be treated for respiratory problems and other health effects.

The Wal-Mart was evacuated after customers began feeling ill. Germantown Police Chief Peter Hoell says a substance believed to be responsible was found on the floor of the store. Hoell would not identify the substance.

Federal agents are assisting in the investigation.

California Man Dies After Being Tasered by Police

Police in San Jose, California, say a man who died after being stunned got into a "violent struggle" with officers trying to take him into custody.

The man, described as being in his 20s, was the sixth person to die in the city after a Taser or electronic stun gun was used on them, according to police reports.

The officers were responding to a call about an intruder in a backyard, police said. Enrique Garcia, a police spokesman, said the man "resisted and got into a violent struggle with our officers."

Police hit the man with batons and then one officer used his Taser. After the man collapsed, officers tried CPR to no avail.

Garcia said some of the officers were injured in the struggle. The homicide squad is investigating the death.

San Jose issued Tasers to all police officers in 2004 after a woman was shot and killed when an officer mistook her vegetable peeler for a large knife

Ex-girlfriend Sues Former Met Alomar for AIDS Exposure

Ex-Met second baseman Roberto Alomar found his sex life made public after his former girlfriend sued him, saying he had unprotected sex with her while he was exposed to HIV and AIDS.

Ilya Dall, 31, said in her lawsuit that she lived for over three years with Alomar while he knew or should have known he was HIV-positive or suffering from AIDS. Dall, who has two children, said in court papers she had unprotected sex with Alomar repeatedly after they met in 2002 through 2005.

Dall initially filed her lawsuit last month in State Supreme Court in Queens. On Tuesday, her attorneys filed papers to move the case to federal court in Brooklyn. She is asking for $15 million in damages for what she said were the emotional and mental affects of AIDS phobia.

According to her court papers, Dall said that over the years she noticed Alomar suffer from various ailments, including oral cold sores, low platelet counts, vision problems and fatigue.

While she was with Alomar, Dall said in her court papers that he maintained that he was HIV-negative. However, in February 2006, Alomar learned he was suffering from AIDS, Dall's court papers alleged.

Dall, who lives in Whitestone, said that after learning about the AIDS diagnosis she "experienced terror and severe emotional distress" because there is no known cure for AIDS, her court papers stated.

Alomar's attorney declined to comment about the lawsuit or the health of his client.

Alomar, 41, considered one of the top second basemen in baseball history, came to the Mets in 2002 and played into 2003, when he was traded to the Chicago White Sox. He retired before the 2005 season.

Peanut Company President Refuses to Testify

The head of the company linked to a massive salmonella outbreak in peanut products refused to testify at a congressional hearing Wednesday as lawmakers accused him of caring more about profits than food safety.

Peanut Corp. of America President Stewart Parnell invoked his constitutional right not to testify, as did his Blakely, Ga., plant manager, during the hearing before a House subcommittee. Both also refused to eat recalled products that a lawmaker offered them from a jar.

The Food and Drug Administration has said that PCA distributed products in 2007 and 2008 that had tested positive for salmonella. The products should not have been shipped, the FDA said.

The outbreak has sickened more than 600 people and may have contributed to nine deaths. More than 1,900 products have been recalled, making it one of the biggest recalls ever. A criminal probe is underway.

"We are shocked at what's been going on in this company," said Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., at the hearing.

The hearing revealed company e-mails indicating frustration over costs and repeated testing.

In September, according to one e-mail, Parnell was told by the Blakely plant manager that a product had been shipped that tested positive for salmonella. The product would be retested, Parnell was told. The plant manager also told Parnell that customers receiving the product should put it on hold, meaning not use or sell it. A week later, an e-mail from Parnell said, "We need to discuss this ... the time lapse ... is costing us huge $$$$$."

Just days after PCA's recall began last month, Parnell pleaded with FDA officials to let the company "at least ... turn the Raw Peanuts on our floor into money," according to a document released at the hearing.

The hearing also revealed that as far back as 2006, the plant had a salmonella finding, potentially linked to Chinese-supplied organic peanuts, according to a November 2006 letter to the company.

JLA USA, which PCA had hired to investigate the incident, told PCA in the letter that its roasting step -- a kill step for salmonella -- hadn't been adequately checked for efficiency and noted that improvements were underway. After an inspection last month, the FDA said the plant failed to show that its roasting was an effective kill step.

JLA President Darlene Cowart also told lawmakers that it appeared that PCA largely dropped JLA as a lab because the lab found higher bacterial counts than others did.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Albuquerque Personal Injury Attorney Mark Caruso in the News

Are Texas Judgments Bigger?

Albuquerque Accident Attorney

By David Roybal
For the Journal
Was it by happenstance or design that Texas was the setting for the first jury trial against the makers of painkiller Vioxx, a trial that ended earlier this month with a $253 million judgment against pharmaceutical giant Merck?
We're told the award likely will be reduced, but even then it would stand at tens of millions of dollars should the case survive on appeal.
It raises a second question: Might the huge award affect an entirely different set of drug liability cases nearing trial or under settlement negotiation in New Mexico and elsewhere?
The Vioxx award was to the widow of a 59-year-old Angleton man who had taken Vioxx for eight months and died after a heart attack.
For a while now, Texas has been among states widely considered to be generous toward plaintiffs in civil suits.
"Bunk!" replied researcher Stephen Daniels while working for the American Bar Foundation. Daniels' work was reported on by the magazine Texas Lawyer.
"Everything is thought to be bigger in Texas," the magazine reported, and people across the country have come to relate Texas with "mega verdicts." The article acknowledged that jurors in some counties, like Jefferson and Matagorda, have been quite generous. But mostly Texas jurors have been stingy, it asserted.
Daniels concluded that "swashbuckling" lawyers and others had convinced Texas lawmakers that jurors there are out of control.
Maybe so. Still, big product liability cases have a way of showing up early in Texas courts. In 2003, A Brownsville jury awarded an $18 million judgment after finding that the Ford F-150 Super Cab had a defective roof structure. A Laredo jury in 2004 awarded $9.4 million after saying Sears, Roebuck & Co. was guilty of malice in a tire service case. Earlier this year, a Zavala County jury found the 2000 Ford Explorer to be defective and awarded $31 million.
Mississippi jurors have a similar reputation for generosity.
Substantial jury awards can spur companies to settle other related suits without trial, whereas lawsuits that are rejected outright or lead to only small jury awards tend to get remaining plaintiffs to think twice about the rigors of court.
Diet drugs Fen-Phen and Redux were much in the news only a few years ago after a study by the Mayo Clinic linked the drugs to potentially fatal heart-valve damage. The drugs were recalled and thousands of lawsuits were filed across the country.
In 1998, one of the first cases went to trial in Texas, where a jury awarded the plaintiff $23.4 million.
Mississippi got another one of the early cases. That one ended in 1999 with $150 million awarded to five women.
Seeing substantial judgments going against it early, the drug manufacturer now known as Wyeth Pharmaceuticals offered $3.75 billion to settle a nationwide class action lawsuit. Many took the offer; many did not and continued pressing for their day in court.
New Mexico was to be another early battleground against the diet drug maker. But settlements and a 2003 defeat in a Santa Fe district court sent high-profile publicity elsewhere.
Lawyer Mark Caruso was among those representing Albuquerque resident Josie Garcia in that case. "We confused the jury because we sued for every cause of action under the sun," said Caruso, who remains one of the busiest New Mexico lawyers in the diet drug cases. "All we have to do under New Mexico law is compare the risks of the drug to the benefit of the drug."
Garcia is appealing her case and is among plaintiffs nationwide involved in an ongoing settlement negotiation.
Caruso since has had two diet drug cases settled in Rio Arriba County for amounts that remain sealed. The cases were settled after having already gone to trial. Caruso has three multi-plaintiff lawsuits scheduled in Santa Fe during coming months, the first to begin in November. He has two more in Tierra Amarilla and one in Grants.
Vioxx cases will keep New Mexico lawyers busy, too. Caruso said he has 15 Vioxx cases that he considers to be strong from among about 250 inquiries received by his office since concerns about the drug first became known.
"It's good to see a big win come off the block," he said of the Texas case. But he said he's not aware of any grand design by lawyers to try to use Texas for boosting chances of other cases involving Vioxx.
"The first big breast implant case in the country was based in Texas. The first Vioxx case was in Texas. ... But I think in Texas, it just depends which county you file in."
Will the Texas Vioxx award affect how lawyers approach unrelated diet drug cases?
No, says Doug Petkus, a Wyeth Pharmaceuticals spokesman. "We want to resolve cases but we will try cases when we think it's appropriate," he said.
Caruso said he had urged clients even before the Vioxx judgment not to move toward settlements hastily.

David Roybal is a longtime journalist who now owns a public relations business. His column appears Sundays in the Journal Santa Fe and Journal North and Tuesdays in the Albuquerque Journal.

There's More to the Story on Kayenta

By D'Val Westphal
Of the Journal
CATCHING UP ON KAYENTA: The recent column that had the city saying there were few wrecks at Irving and Kayenta has a few readers begging to differ.
Laura Downey e-mails that her “home backs into Kayenta, and there is a serious problem regarding speeding on this road. I have been in touch with the West Side command center, and at times there has been more police presence, however we still have a bad problem. In the article ... it was mentioned that there had only been two reported accidents. What was not mentioned was that one of those accidents was fatal and was caused because of excessive speed, which resulted in losing control of the vehicle. Shortly before the accident happened, I called the police to report this vehicle that was traveling at a high rate of speed, he had been going back and forth, using this road like a race track for over an hour, had there been a quicker response it is possible that this accident could have been avoided.
“Every day and night I hear motorcycles — what we call pocket rockets — using excessive speed 60-plus miles per hour. Many cars speed as well. It is very dangerous, there are blind curves on this road, and it is just a matter of time before we have another bad accident. I don't know what the answer is; I think that speed bumps would help and a lower speed limit.”
And Bill Kelly e-mails that “the count of accidents at a given location does not necessarily include all incidents. I learned 18 months ago that accident reports can disappear into the ether.
“My vehicle, which was parked in a parking lot, was struck by a car that came off the roadway. All the sheriff's deputies in area were there for hours. The first responding officer gave me an accident report number so that I could deal with my insurance, and the driver's, if he had any.
“To make a long story short, after much checking by both myself and my insurance adjuster, no such report was ever filed. I did finally find the officer that had given me the number, and he referred me to the clerk he thought might help me. She was able to find his initial report — in a very deep pile on a desk — but no entry into the computer was ever made. My point is, if they don't follow their own process, they don't have the information to refer back to.”
And Andrew Hewes of Rio Rancho took the time to ask his State Farm insurance agent about the cost of repairing walls after a car plows into them.
“They say uninsured motorist coverage on my vehicle would pay for house and yard structures damaged by a vehicle. I had previously assumed uninsured motorist only covered vehicles. The nice thing about uninsured motorist coverage is (a) there is no deductible and (b) it doesn't 'count against you' if people keep driving into your yard. In general, landscaping is not covered.”
CHECKING IN ON THE RIO GRANDE STOPS: The three new stop signs on Rio Grande continue to draw mixed reviews.
Diane Albert says via e-mail that “my fiance and I live on Ranchitos just east of Rio Grande. We are happy that the stop signs were installed on Rio Grande at El Pueblo and Ranchitos. We are hoping that commuters refrain from using residential streets and use Alameda, Paseo del Norte and Second Street for their daily commute. ...We enjoy the rural atmosphere in the village and do not appreciate the speeders roaring down Ranchitos at 40 to 50 mph.”
But Joe Barela of Rio Rancho isn't as pleased.
He says “I have lived here all my life and have always enjoyed Rio Grande Boulevard. I drove through this on Sunday. It really sucks with the stop signs. You can no longer take a nice, leisurely drive down Rio Grande. That was part of the appeal. They already have the speed to 1 inch/second on Rio Grande. I think the mayor is wrong in his opinion about the road being used for commuter traffic. I guess all of us from the West bank that wanted to go down to the Flying Circus, Old Town and Central and Pro Markets to spend money just won't go there anymore.” At least not via Rio Grande.
Assistant editorial page editor D'Val Westphal tackles commuter issues for the Metro area on Mondays and West Siders and Rio Ranchoans on Thursdays. Reach her at 823-3858 (phone), 823-3994 (fax), road@abqjournal.com (e-mail) or P.O. Drawer J, Albuquerque, NM 87103. Check out previous columns at abqjournal.com/traffic.

New Mexico Legislature Kills Death Penalty in State

Associated Press
The legislation, HB285, passed on a vote of 40-28, and headed to the Senate.
Twice before, in 2005 and 2007, the House approved a death penalty repeal only to have it fail in the Senate.
This year, repeal supporters are banking on a different outcome because there are new members in that chamber.
"If everyone who told us they would vote with us stays, we will pass the Senate," predicted Viki Elkey, executive director of the New Mexico Coalition to Repeal the Death Penalty.
A final hurdle would be Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson, who has been a supporter of capital punishment in the past.
Asked about it this week, he said only, "I'll take a look at it."
There are two men on death row, Robert Fry of Farmington and Timothy Allen of Bloomfield, whose executions would not be prevented by the passage of the bill.
New Mexico has executed one prisoner since 1960, child killer Terry Clark in 2001. The state uses lethal injection.
Rep. Gail Chasey, D-Albuquerque, who has sponsored similar legislation for the past decade, called repeal a "thoughtful and practical step."
"We no longer need the death penalty. Its costs far outweigh its benefits," she said.
Chasey contended capital punishment is expensive, doesn't deter violent crime and is imposed in a discriminatory manner.
And the state has come close to executing innocent people, she said. She cited a case from the 1970s in which four California bikers were on death row for the murder of a University of New Mexico student until the real killer came forward.
Supporters of repeal say the resources the state puts into capital punishment could better be spent helping murder victims' families.
State law limits the death penalty to certain murder cases, including those involving kidnapping, rape, the murder of police officers, prison guards or inmates, and murder for hire and murder of a witness.
Opponents of the bill said such victims' families deserve to keep the option of urging prosecutors to seek the death penalty.
"I don't want to take that away from the victims' families," said Rep. William Rehm, R-Albuquerque.
And opponents argued that murderers in prison for life — with nothing else left to lose — would be a danger to prison guards and to other inmates, and could escape and kill again.
Rendering such killers harmless is "a false hope," said Rep. Dennis Kintigh, a Roswell Republican.

Copyright ©2009 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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Ex-Judge's Law License Suspended

Journal Staff Writer A former judge accused of sexually harassing a woman appearing before him during a mediation has been suspended from practicing law for up to three years. The New Mexico Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered the suspension of Chris Berkheimer based on the same circumstances that led him to resign his post as a Workers Compensation Administration judge in June 2007. As cameras continued rolling after a mediation with a female claimant, Berkheimer made sexual advances on the woman. The mediation took place via videoconference in a closed conference room at the Workers Comp Administration field office in Roswell in April 2007. "After the close of the mediation with the door shut, (Berkheimer) made aggressive, inappropriate proposals of a sexual nature to (the woman), touched her inappropriately and requested that she accompany him to a bar and/or a hotel. He went with her outside the hearing room and continued to make inappropriate proposals," according to a document summarizing facts from the hearing committee. The woman's attorney, who was in Albuquerque, saw and heard the activity in the hearing room with the camera still on, according to the hearing committee's report. Berkheimer's behavior "does not meet any standard of 'decorum' in a legal proceeding," the committee report said. "(He) has expressed no remorse or responsibility for the offending behavior nor admitted any part of it." The mediation stemmed from a work-related auto accident. In Berkheimer's version of events, the woman invited him to feel the screws and hardware in her wrist. He said he accidentally hit her knee when he reached for his briefcase. "(He) did not conduct himself inappropriately at anytime whether physically or verbally," according to a document filed by Berkheimer. The state Supreme Court heard the case against Berkheimer brought by the New Mexico Disciplinary Board, which had sought his disbarment. A hearing committee chaired by former American Bar Association President Roberta Cooper Ramo had recommended Berkheimer be suspended at least two years. Joel Widman, an attorney for the disciplinary board, said the court also ordered that Berkheimer take annual sexual harassment training courses once he resumes practice. Berkheimer took inactive status with the New Mexico Bar a year ago until the disciplinary proceedings were concluded.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

When Insurance Companies Aren't Fair

Now more than ever we are seeing clients come to us who have tried to settle cases on their own and been disillusioned by insulting offers and sometimes the appearance of outright trickery from the insurance company liable for their auto accident injury claim. Click here for an example of large scale deceit by major insurance companies that was recently in the news.

Fortunately Attorney Mark Caruso has over twenty years experience dealing with insurance companies in auto accident cases and is highly qualified to protect the rights of the injured. In fact Mark once worked within the insurance industry and has valuable insight on the way such companies deal with individuals seeking to pursue their claims without anyone to protect them. Mark Caruso offers a free, no obligation consultation to anyone who has been injured in an accident that was not their fault. Call today at 505-883-5000 (New Mexico and California residents only) to make an appointment to meet with Mark Caruso.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Judge Certifies Class Action Lawsuit Against Dell

A class-action lawsuit against Dell Canada Inc. has been certified by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.
The suit was filed on behalf of Canadians who own Dell Inspiron notebook models 1100, 1150, 5100, 5150 or 5160. The class action seeks compensation from Dell arising from alleged soldering problems in the notebooks.
Lawyer Joel Rochon of the Toronto firm Rochon Genova says the class action covers some 120,000 Canadian consumers.
Rochon says his firm is overwhelmed by the number of people that have come forward.
The court denied Dell's motion to dismiss the class action and require customers with affected notebooks to deal directly with Dell.
None of the allegations raised in the suit have been proven in court.
For more information, contact Caruso Law Office at 505-883-5000.

Justice Ginsburg Treated for Pancreatic Cancer

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the only woman on the Supreme Court and a survivor of colorectal cancer a decade ago, underwent surgery for pancreatic cancer Thursday.
The news, revealed by court officials in a brief statement, raises questions about the health and future court service of the 75-year-old justice. Pancreatic cancer is one of the most lethal of all cancers, and its treatment can be particularly grueling and difficult.
Ginsburg learned of the lesion during a routine annual checkup in late January, the court statement said. A scan revealed the 1-centimeter tumor in the center of the pancreas. Surgery at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City was performed by Murray Brennan, a leading specialist in pancreatic cancer.
The court said Ginsburg was expected to be hospitalized for seven to 10 days. It had no comment on her follow-up treatment or how long she might be away from work. The justices are scheduled to begin a new round of oral arguments Feb. 23.
John Allendorf, an attending surgeon in the pancreas center at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia, said the relatively small size of Ginsburg's tumor suggests it was caught very early. Patients who have their tumors removed have the only chance of a cure, he said.
The court statement said Ginsburg had no symptoms before the discovery of the lesion. Pancreatic tumors grow rapidly and usually have spread throughout the body by the time their symptoms are detected, making them impossible to remove surgically, says Allendorf, who is not involved in her treatment.
Even with surgery and aggressive chemotherapy, however, pancreatic cancer usually returns. The median survival for Stage 1 disease -- as Ginsburg apparently has -- is two years, Allendorf says, and 30% of patients with Stage 1 cancer survive five years after diagnosis.
News accounts already had focused on possible retirements at the Supreme Court. Five of the nine justices are 70 or older. Ginsburg, who will be 76 on March 15, had said publicly before Thursday's announcement that she did not expect to retire anytime soon.
There was no suggestion Thursday that she would not finish the term, which typically runs until the end of June. The court is closely divided, and if she is not able to vote on cases, could deadlock 4-4 on some disputes.
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said President Obama had not talked with Ginsburg but wished her a speedy recovery.
Ginsburg, who first gained national attention as a women's rights advocate arguing sex discrimination cases before the court, was appointed by President Clinton in 1993.
She has continued to be a robust voice for women's rights. Since the 2006 retirement of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, Ginsburg has lamented being the only woman on the nation's highest bench.
Several sitting justices have undergone treatment for cancer over the years. Then-chief justice William Rehnquist revealed he had thyroid cancer in October 2004. Throughout chemotherapy and other treatment, he worked until the end of the 2004-05 term. He died on Sept. 3, 2005.
About 37,680 Americans were diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2008 and 34,290 died from it, according to the American Cancer Society.
For more information, contact Caruso Law Office at 505-883-5000.

FEMA Recalls Storm Meal Kit Peanut Butter

A U.S. agency says some emergency meal kits given to Kentucky and Arkansas storm victims may contain recalled peanut butter contaminated with salmonella.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency said kits manufactured by Red Cloud Food Services Inc. of South Elgin, Ill., under the Standing Rock label, "may contain peanut butter which is part of the precautionary national recall under way in accordance with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration."
The distributed meal kits, which include several main courses, include clear, 1-ounce packets of peanut butter, the agency said.
"People who have received commercial meal kits are asked to inspect the kits in their possession and immediately dispose of any peanut butter packets," FEMA said.
The meals were sent as part of U.S. President Barack Obama's federal disaster relief for Kentucky and Arkansas following a devastating ice storm last week.
A Red Cloud memo posted on the FEMA Web site says the prepared-foods manufacturer recalled the meals with the suspect peanut butter Jan. 19.
When asked why the agency appeared to have distributed the peanut butter two weeks after the recall, a FEMA spokeswoman said the recalled peanut butter was not included in the earlier alert, which she dated as Jan. 20.
When the alert was expanded Wednesday "to include a company that was previously cleared, we took immediate steps to cease distribution to any states or our distribution centers where there may be additional products," Ashley Small said in an e-mail.
The Red Cloud memo said that even though "not all meal kits" contained peanut butter, it was recalling all kits produced Sept. 22-25.
More than 1,000 items have been recalled in the salmonella outbreak that has sickened at least 550 people, eight of whom have died. A Peanut Corporation of America plant in Blakely, Ga., is being blamed for the contamination.
For more information, contact Caruso Law Office at 505-883-5000.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Tainted Meat Settlement Set at $27 Million

Canada's Maple Leaf Foods has agreed to a $27 million settlement for about 5,000 people affected earlier this year by listeriosis-contaminated deli meats.
Company President Michael McCain said the Toronto company and class-action lawyers had worked together to settle the claims that began in August with Canada's largest recall.
The federal Canadian Food Inspection Agency says 20 people died of listeria poisoning, although a Saskatchewan class-action lawyer claims that there are actually 29 families that lost someone to poisoning.
Under the settlement Maple Leaf's liability insurer will pay - $120,000 will go to the estates of people who died plus funeral expenses, $35,000 to their spouses, $30,000 for each of their children and $20,000 for their parents.
Related illnesses lasting a day or two will be eligible for a $750 payout, and people who were sick two weeks to a month will receive $8,000 plus any loss of income and $750 a day for hospitalization.
The settlement still requires court approval in Ontario, Quebec and Saskatchewan.

Mark J. Caruso
Caruso Law Offices, PC
Licensed in New Mexico and California

Mattel Settles Over Lead in Toys

Toy maker Mattel Inc. will pay $12 million to more than three dozen states to settle an investigation over Chinese-made lead-tainted toys shipped to the U.S. in 2007, state officials said Monday.
Washington state will receive $241,558 from the settlement, which lets the state use the money for consumer education, litigation or as a reimbursement of expenses.
Mattel and its Fisher Price unit recalled more than 21 million Chinese-made toys last year, beginning in August, fearing that the items were tainted with lead paint. Some had tiny magnets that children could accidentally swallow.
All the affected toys were pulled off shelves by December 2007.
As part of the agreement, Mattel also agreed to lower the acceptable level of lead in toys shipped to the States to 90 parts per million, down from 600 parts per million, which is currently the federal standard.
When new regulations go into place next year, however, the federal standard will also fall to 90 parts per million.
"We are pleased this agreement with Mattel and Fisher Price will result in much safer standards," Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley said during a news conference Monday.
Massachusetts will receive $625,000 as part of the settlement. The state plans to use $500,000 of the money for a grant program funding organizations that foster awareness of the dangers of lead paint and $125,000 will cover legal costs, Coakley said.
"Mattel has demonstrated its commitment to children's safety by pledging to meet standards even more stringent than those currently required," El Segundo, Calif.-based Mattel said in a statement. "Mattel also has taken steps that go beyond current requirements to give parents greater confidence that the Mattel toys that they buy this holiday season will be the safest ever."
States taking part in the settlement are: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia and Wyoming.
California also took part in negotiations, but reached a separate agreement under its Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act. As part of that agreement, California said Thursday that nine toy companies, including Mattel, would pay the state $1.8 million over lead-tainted toys.
Needham & Co. analyst Sean McGowan said the settlement had been anticipated, and $12 million is probably less than the legal costs the company would have incurred if the company hadn't reached a settlement with the states.
"Anything that would put to rest this question (of toy safety) is a net positive, as long as it's not terribly crippling, and $12 million is pretty good to put to rest state-level actions," he said. However, he noted that class-action suits from consumers still are pending.

Mark J. Caruso
Caruso Law Offices, PC
Licensed in New Mexico and California

High Court Splits 5-4 on 'Light Cigarettes'

A Supreme Court decision Monday allowing smokers to sue tobacco companies for fraud in marketing "light" cigarettes is the latest development against cigarettes touted as low in tar and nicotine.
In a win for consumers over business interests, the justices decided 5-4 that federal regulation of cigarette labels does not shield manufacturers from state claims of deceptive advertising. The decision lets a lawsuit by Maine smokers of Marlboro Lights and Cambridge Lights proceed against Altria Group, the parent company of Philip Morris.
An estimated 43 million adults in the U.S. smoke, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Numerous similar fraud lawsuits are pending.
"We will now have an opportunity to prove at trial that the tobacco companies have been deceptive," said the Washington lawyer who represented the Maine smokers. "Our people thought they were buying a safe cigarette, but they weren't."
Murray Garnick of Philip Morris said the company "will assert many strong defenses used successfully in the past to defend against this very type of case."
Monday's ruling comes three weeks after the Federal Trade Commission rescinded guidelines about tar and nicotine levels that let the tobacco industry pitch cigarettes as "light" and possibly less dangerous to health. The Justice Department, siding with the smokers, cited studies in its brief showing smokers of "lights" compensated by taking deeper puffs, holding smoke in their lungs longer.
The case, closely followed by health advocates and manufacturers, tested the relationship between federal and state law. Usually, when federal and state laws regulate the same conduct, federal law trumps state actions.
After Maine smokers sued, claiming Altria knew its cigarettes were not delivering less nicotine, Altria said the suit was barred by the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act. That law bans states from any "requirement or prohibition based on smoking and health" in cigarette ads. Lower courts disagreed on whether the law eclipsed the state grounds in "light" cigarette cases.
Justice John Paul Stevens emphasized for the majority Monday that federal law blocks only state rules related to smoking and health. The Maine law, he wrote, "is a general rule that creates a duty not to deceive." He noted the government does not endorse use of "light" and "low tar" descriptions.
He was joined by the more liberal justices (David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer) and swing voter Anthony Kennedy.
For the dissenters, Justice Clarence Thomas said the majority misinterpreted past court rulings on competing federal and state rules. He was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito.

Mark J. Caruso, attorney
Licensed in New Mexico and California

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

What You Need To Do Before You're in an Albuquerque, New Mexico Accident

In this strained economy more and more people are dropping their auto insurance. Currently as many as one out of three drivers in New Mexico are without insurance. Before you are in an accident you need to review your own policy to make sure your uninsured motorist coverage is adequate--we recommend at least 100,000/300,000 in UM/UIM coverage. You should also choose to get the "med pay" option if your company offers it. With med pay you have a pot of money (at an amount you choose) that will immediately pay your medical bills regardless of who's at fault in the accident. Without med pay your medical bills may not be paid until all treatment has ended and your case receives a lump sum settlement. By then, your medical providers might have you in collections, and your credit rating could be harmed. Last, you need to determine whether you are "upsidedown" in your car: in other words, do you owe more than your car would bring if you traded it in? If so, "gap insurance" is highly recommended. Otherwise you could end up with no car and thousands of dollars in debt.

Caruso Law Offices helps folks who have been injured in accidents where the other driver was in the wrong yet had no insurance. We can help you obtain proper compensation from your uninsured motorist coverage and offer a free consultation with no obligation to review whether an offer from your insurance company is fair.

Please call us today at 505-883-5000 to schedule your free consultation on your auto accident with injuries.

Kelly Vickers
Administrative Assistant to
& under the guidance of

Attorney Mark Caruso