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