All posts by Joseph H. Saunders

Hawaii Priest Accused of Sex Abuse

According to Hawaii media, “Father George DeCosta, who for almost three decades was the parish priest at Malia Puka O Kalani Catholic Church in Keaukaha, has been accused of abuse by two Hawaii men. The two were students at Damien Memorial High School in the 1960s when DeCosta was the chaplain there.”
The Catholic priest was working at the high school operated by the Christian Brothers, themselves no strangers to allegation of sexual abuse.
The allegations of Hawaii priest abuse sound very similar to those we’ve heard from survivors on the mainland-the priest plies the unsuspecting minor with alcohol, spends inordinate amounts of time with him, showers him with gifts, and then abuses him sexually.
Hawaii recently passed legislation providing a window to the statute of limitations in civil sex abuse lawsuits that provides survivors an opportunity to bring such claims in Hawaii courts.

Judge Rules in Favor of Vatican in Sex Abuse Lawsuit

A priest abuse lawsuit that named the Vatican as a defendant has been tossed out by an Oregon judge. The question at hand in this case was whether the Vatican has a supervisory, employer/employee relationship with Catholic priests. The judge ruled that he didn’t see such a relationship in his review of the court documents.
The Vatican is a sovereign state and the Catholic Church has argued that it should be immune from such civil prosecution.
The judge’s ruling marks the last case in which the Vatican had been named as a defendant in a sexual abuse lawsuit. Previous lawsuits have been thrown out or dropped.
Obviously, the Pope does have administrative control over the church’s priests and bishops. Even recently, the Pope has removed bishops when he views them as unfit. In the last 40 years, many priests have been removed from priestly ministry by the Vatican. Such priest theologians as Leonardo Boff, Hans Kung, and Charles Curran have either been removed from their priestly duties or fired from their academic positions in Catholic universities.

Bellwether Vaginal Mesh Trial Results in $5.5 Million Verdict

A California woman who’d had the C.R. Bard Avaulta Plus Vaginal Mesh Implant surgically inserted into her body has won a vaginal mesh lawsuit against the manufacturer. The woman had suffered through 9 separate revision surgeries attempting to correct the issues caused by the vaginal mesh implant.
According to the Sacramento Bee, “Bellwether trials are scheduled to set a “gauge” on the potential value of the thousands of lawsuits. Another trial is set for April 2013 in NJ, however if the California case is any indication it looks as if the general public believes that these Mesh Manufacturers may be liable for substantial damages.”
Vaginal mesh implants, manufactured and marketed by various medical device companies, were originally approved for the treatment of female urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse. However, many women have had to have the meshes removed because of faulty design issues which damage surrounding tissue.

Wright Medical Accused of Breaching Deferred Prosecution Agreement

The US Attorney’s Office is accusing Wright Medical Group of breaching its deferred prosecution agreement concerning alleged kickbacks to doctors. Wright Medical is a global medical device maker of artificial knees, hips, and other joints. The agreement breach may lead to further civil and criminal issues for the medical device maker.
According to one media report, Wright Medical has been notified by the US Attorney’s Office of two willful and knowing material breaches of its deferred prosecution agreement. According to,
“The SEC documents filed Wednesday said:
• GC Raymond Kolls and two other executives resigned suddenly this week “without good reason,” which means they are not entitled to severance pay. Kolls couldn’t be reached for comment.
• Kolls was immediately replaced on Wednesday by interim GC Thomas McAllister, an assistant general counsel at Wright.
• The board recently received a tip about non-compliance and hired unnamed outside counsel to conduct an internal investigation. The probe found “credible evidence of serious wrongdoing,” which the board communicated to the U.S. attorney’s office on Wednesday.”
The deferred prosecution agreement between the federal government and Wright Medical was finalized last year and resulted in Wright Medical paying $7.9 million in civil and administrative claims. The terms of the agreement included the hiring of an independent monitor. The terms of the agreement was to last five years.

Pfizer Pays $60 Million to Settle Foreign Bribery Charges

”Pfizer subsidiaries in several countries had bribery so entwined in their sales culture that they offered points and bonus programs to improperly reward foreign officials who proved to be their best customers,” said Kara Brockmeyer, chief of SEC’s foreign enforcement division.
So, Pfizer agreed to pay a $60 million penalty to settle the bribery charges. While $60 million may seem like a large amount of money, it’s really a drop in the bucket for a company like Pfizer. What’s left undetermined is if the penalty will effectively change the sales culture at the huge pharma company. Ethics aside, Pfizer officials may have determined that from a cost-benefit analysis it makes sense to pay these type of fines. The profits generated by the illegal activity surely outweigh the fine they paid. These allegations stem from as far back as 2001 and involve countries such as China,Italy, Russia, Croatia and other Eastern European countries.
As long as the bottom line isn’t severely affected, it’s business as usual for these big companies.

Kansas City-St. Joseph Priest Pleads Guilty to 5 Federal Child Porn

While his bishop continues his Quixotic effort to show that the images Fr. Shawn Ratigan possessed when he was arrested last year were not pornography, Ratigan himself plead guilty today to five charges of child pornography.
According to the Associated Press, “Under terms of the plea deal, Ratigan pleaded guilty to four counts of producing child pornography and one count of attempting to produce child porn. Eight other counts against Ratigan were dismissed.”
Ratigan was facing a trial later this month while Bishop Robert Finn is scheduled for trial in September relating to charges that he failed to inform law enforcement of suspected child abuse.

Yaz and Yazmin Birth Control Lawsuits Settled for Nearly $403 Million

In a newsletter to its stockholders, Bayer, the manufacturer of the Yaz and Yasmin birth control pills, has announced that it has settled 1,877 Yaz and Yasmin lawsuits for a total of $402.6 million. There are still nearly 12,000 lawsuits pending against Bayer.
The Yaz and Yasmin lawsuits have been filed after women who’ve taken these birth control pills experienced serious blood clots. According to Bloomberg Business Week, “Since 2009, the German drugmaker has faced a wave of litigation over the birth-control pills. Lawyers suing the company cited FDA reports of at least 50 deaths tied to the pills from 2004 to 2008. Plaintiffs’ lawyers contend in court filings that Bayer officials marketed the contraceptives for unapproved uses and misled women about their risks.
The cases filed in federal courts were consolidated before U.S. District Judge David Herndon in East St. Louis, Illinois, for pretrial proceedings.”
Bayer is clearly anticipating future Yaz and Yasmin lawsuit settlements since it has put aside $610.5 million.
Since news of health issues surrounding the Yaz and Yasmin products first surfaced, the FDA has issued warnings that these birth control pill may triple the risk of blood clot issues among women who take these pills. Business Week further noted, “Pills like Bayer’s Yasmin, which contain a synthetic hormone called drospirenone, will have warning labels saying researchers found they may triple the risk for clots.
The FDA examined data on more than 835,000 women who took pills containing drospirenone, including Bayer’s Yasmin line, according to the FDA report. Yasmin was the No. 4 oral contraceptive in the U.S. in 2011, with 4.6 percent of the market as of September, according to data from IMS Health.”
In spite of the Yaz and Yasmin lawsuits and the serious health concerns, the pills remain a top seller and income generator for Bayer. In 2011, Bayer contraceptives generated $1.1 billion in sales.

Vaginal Mesh Lawsuit Update-Protective Order Guidelines Issued

In the federal consolidated vaginal mesh lawsuits, a Stipulated Protective Order has been issued after a status conference call with Joseph R. Goodwin, who is overseeing the pelvic mesh litigation currently pending in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia.
The Protective Order will govern the confidentiality of vaginal mesh documents obtained during the discovery and post-discovery phases of the mesh lawsuits.
The consolidated lawsuits, known as an MDL (multidistrict litigation) involves multiple vaginal mesh manufacturers including C.R. Bard, American Medical Systems, Boston Scientific, and Ethicon, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson.

Archdiocese of Los Angeles Sex Abuse Documents to be Made Public

After five years of wrangling after the historic priest abuse lawsuit settlement in Los Angeles, the public may finally be able to view the documents behind the priest abuse scandal. On July 18, a California appeals court denied the Archdiocese of Los Angeles’ petition to have access to the documents restricted.
The battle over the church’s sex abuse documents occurs every time a courageous survivor comes forward and we file a sex abuse lawsuit on their behalf. In one case, we had numerous hearings over the issue of whether these documents should be made part of the court record and hence, public documents. In each instance, the church’s lawyers argue that the right to privacy trumps the right of public disclosure. Yet, the issue at hand isn’t primarily about privacy. It’s about public safety. The more light is shed on secretive, criminal behavior the more the public is able to understand how Catholic priests, Boy Scout leaders, and other pastors have been allowed to continue to molest children. As a sex abuse lawyer, this is the crux of the issue and should be a great concern to every parent as well as the public at large.

Another Stryker Hip Recall

This month Stryker, an industry leader in providing hip implant medical devices, has voluntarily recalled another hip device because of issues associated with it once it has been implanted in patients. According to the recall notice posted by the FDA, the recall was issued because of fretting and corrosion at the modular neck junction of the hip implant device. Here’s an excerpt of what the FDA post said: “Stryker Orthopaedics’ decision to voluntarily remove Rejuvenate and ABG II modular-neck stems and terminate global distribution of these products comes after continued post-market surveillance. The post-market surveillance data may be predictive of a trend. “Following this action, we will work with the medical community to better understand this matter as we continue to evaluate the data,” said Simpson.
Stryker has notified healthcare professionals and regulatory bodies of this voluntary recall. Patients who received a Rejuvenate Modular or ABG II modular-neck stem are encouraged to contact their surgeon. Patients uncertain if they have one of these products implanted should contact their surgeon or consult their medical records.”
This is not the first time Stryker Corporation has experienced serious failures with its hip devices. Previous issues involved the Stryker Trident PSL and Hemispherical Acetahip-implant-settlmentbular Cups.