Common Law - The FindLaw Consumer Protection Law Blog

January 2007 Archives

FDA to Strengthen Drug Safety Review

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced plans to strengthen drug safety review efforts, and has outlined a comprehensive commitment to the safety of drugs and other medical products -- including plans to strengthen the science that supports the FDA's product safety system, and steps to improve communication and information flow among all stakeholders involved in promoting the safe use of medical products.

Study: Ads Exaggerate Benefits of Prescription Drugs

Drug companies overstate the benefits of prescription drugs in their television advertising, and TV ads for these medications have limited educational value, according to a study published in the latest issue of Annals of Family Medicine.

As explained in the article's stated purpose: "American television viewers see as many as 16 hours of prescription drug advertisements each year, yet no research has examined how television ads attempt to influence consumers. This information is important, because ads may not meet their educational potential, possibly prompting consumers to request prescriptions that are clinically inappropriate or more expensive than equally effective alternatives."

A TV special on the U.S. Supreme Court will premier this week on PBS television stations nationwide. This program is entitled "The Supreme Court" and is produced by Thirteen/WNET New York. The series will air over two weeks -- on January 31, 2007 and February 7, 2007 at 9 pm EST.  To learn more:

A new study finds that use of certain antidepressants by older patients exposes them to an increased risk of suffering bone fractures. The study, carried out by a number of Canadian research scientists, suggests that patients over 50 years of age who take Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) on a daily basis -- including Celexa, Fluvoxamine, Paxil, Prozac, and Zoloft -- are twice as likely to suffer bone fractures.

IRS: Taxpayers Have Until April 17 to File and Pay

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced that taxpayers will have until Tuesday, April 17, 2007, to file their 2006 returns and pay any taxes due. Taxpayers will have extra time to file and pay because April 15 falls on a Sunday in 2007, and the following day (Monday, April 16) is Emancipation Day, a legal holiday in the District of Columbia. Read the IRS Press Release.

Earlier this month the City Council of Bangor, Maine approved an ordinance that revised the Code of the City of Bangor to prohibit smoking in motor vehicles when there is a person younger than 18 years old present.  This ordinance was effective as of January 19.  As reported by the Bangor Daily News, an anonymous donor contributed $2,000 to pay for a radio campaign to inform the local community about the new measure.

Bangor appears to be the first U.S. city to enact such a measure, although similar bans have approved in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Puetro Rico. Other states are considering similar measures.

For some background information on the Bangor ordinance you can read item #3 from these minutes of the Bangor City Council Government Operations Committee (.doc format).  Please note that although these minutes indicate that a violation of the measure would be a "secondary offense", in the final approved ordinance this was revised to be a "primary offense," which means that police can stop a vehicle if a violation is observed.  The Bangor Daily News also has an article on the approval of this measure.

California Bans Perchloroethylene (Perc) from Dry Cleaning

At a meeting today the California Air Resources Board (ARB) unanimously approved banning the use of perchloroethylene (Perc), a potential carcinogen, from dry cleaning and water-repelling operations.  This ban will be implemented in a phased approach and is to be completed by January 1, 2023.  California is the first state to enact such a ban.  For more information:

Study: Distractions Cause Thousands of Teen Car Accidents

Distractions such as cell phones, other passengers, high emotions, and fatigue contribute to thousands of car accidents involving teenage drivers, according to a new study by the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and State Farm Insurance Companies.

State Farm Reaches Settlement on Katrina Claims

State Farm Insurance has reached an agreement with officials from the State of Mississippi under which the insurer will pay the claims of more than 600 Mississippi homeowners who suffered serious property damage after Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast in August 2005. As part of the agreement, State Farm will also reconsider the closed claims of thousands of other Mississippi homeowners.

President Bush Delivers 2007 State of the Union Address

On Tuesday January 23rd President Bush delivered the 2007 State of the Union Address.  The speech discussed both domestic and foreign policy matters.  Resources to learn more:

Also, as reference you can read Article II, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution, which contains the Constitutional reference regarding the President providing a State of the Union to Congress.

New York's Minimum Wage Increases for 2007

Employees in the state of New York (including most domestic workers) must now be paid a minimum wage of at least $7.15 per hour, according to a New York State law that took effect on January 1, 2007. Learn more about the New York State Minimum Wage Laws, from the New York State Department of Labor.

New Passport Rules Take Effect

New passport rules for international air travelers are in effect as of today (Jan. 23, 2007). Beginning today, all persons traveling by air from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda -- including U.S. citizens -- will be required to have a valid passport in order to enter the United States. Learn about the New Passport Law from FindLaw. If you need a passport, the U.S. State Department has helpful information for First Time Passport Applicants.

U.S. Supreme Court Strikes Down California Sentencing Law

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled today in the case of Cunningham v. California (case number 05-6551) that California's determinate sentencing law (DSL) violates a criminal defendant's right to trial by jury safeguarded by the Sixth Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

For additional information:

New Massachusetts Minimum Wage for 2007

The minimum wage that must be paid to most employees in Massachusetts has increased to $7.50/hour from $6.75/hour, as of January 1, 2007. Next year, on January 1, 2008, the Massachusetts minimum wage is set to increase again, to $8.00/hour. Learn more about the Massachusetts Minimum Wage Program, from the Massachusetts Department of Labor.

In the final piece of legislation in the 100 Hours legislative agenda the U.S. House of Representatives has passed H.R. 6 - CLEAN Energy Act of 2007.  The vote was 264 - 163.

Toyota Recalls 533,000 Trucks, SUVs

The discovery of faulty parts that could lead to steering problems has prompted Toyota Motor Corp. to recall 533,000 of its Tundra trucks and Sequoia SUVs in the U.S. On Friday, Toyota announced that 11 vehicle accidents had been linked to the defect. Affected vehicles are 2004 to 2006 model year Tundra trucks, and 2004 to 2007 model year Sequoia SUVs. Toyota estimates that necessary repairs will require about three hours at a Toyota service facility. Learn more about Vehicle Defects and Recalls, from FindLaw.

Connecticut Minimum Wage Increases for 2007

The new minimum wage for employees in Connecticut is now $7.65/hour, as of January 1, 2007. The new minimum wage for waitpersons in Connecticut is now $5.41/hour. Learn more about the Connecticut Minimum Wage, from the Connecticut Department of Labor.

New Colorado Minimum Wage for 2007

The minimum wage in Colorado increased from $5.15/hour to $6.85/hour as of January 1, 2007. Also now in effect is a law increasing the minimum wage for tipped employees in Colorado from $2.13/hour to $3.83/hour. In November 2006, Colorado voters passed a law (Amendment 42) which authorized the minimum wage increases. Learn more about the Colorado Minimum Wage, [PDF file] from the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.

Merck May Face Vioxx Class Action

A New Jersey appeals court decision may open the door to a class action lawsuit against Merck & Co. by former Vioxx patients who are currently in good health, but who want the drug company to pay their medical monitoring costs. The Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey decision overturned a lower court’s dismissal of the plaintiffs' claims, saying that those claims were "prematurely terminated" Vioxx was withdrawn from the marketplace in September 2004, due in large part to concerns over links between the painkiller and increased risk of heart attack and stroke.

Get more information on Vioxx, from FindLaw.

California Minimum Wage Increases

On January 1, 2007 the minimum wage in California increased from $6.75 to $7.50 per hour. On January 1, 2008, the minimum wage will again be raised, to $8.00 per hour. Learn more about the California Minimum Wage Increase 2007, from the California Department of Industrial Relations.

New Arizona Minimum Wage Law for 2007

As of January 1, 2007, the minimum wage in Arizona is $6.75 per hour. On November 7, 2006, Arizona voters passed Proposition 202, allowing the minimum wage increase. Learn more about the new law, exemptions, and more on the Industrial Commission of Arizona's Arizona Minimum Wage page.

IRS: "Free File" Opens for 95 Million Taxpayers

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and its private-sector partners today announced the opening of this year's Free File program with a series of improvements and changes to help taxpayers. The free tax preparation and free electronic filing initiative begins its fifth year with more consumer-friendly features and expanded services for Spanish-speaking taxpayers. Read the full IRS Press Release.

On Monday, January 15th the nation honors the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Learn more about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in FindLaw for the Public's Spotlight on Civil Rights.

State Farm Liable for $2.7M in Katrina Case

A federal jury in Gulfport, Mississippi has found State Farm Fire & Casualty liable for $2.5 million in punitive damages, in one of thousands of cases filed against insurance companies for their handling of claims filed over damages caused by Hurricane Katrina. Earlier today, the judge in the case ruled that State Farm was liable for more than $200,000 in damages to the plaintiffs' home in Biloxi, Mississippi, leaving the total damage award for the jury to decide. Read more about the decision:

As part of the 100 Hours legislative agenda the U.S. House of Representatives has passed H.R. 2 - The Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2007.  This will increase the federal minimum wage -- currently $5.15 per hour -- to $7.25 per hour over the next two years.  The vote was 315-116.

More on the minimum wage from FindLaw: Minimum Wage and Overtime Basics, State Minimum Wage Table.

Changes to Vehicle Crash Tests and Safety Ratings

The federal government would improve its automobile crash tests and strengthen its five-star vehicle safety rating system under a plan unveiled today by U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters during a visit to the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Under the improvements suggested for the five-star safety rating program – known as the New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) - vehicles will be subjected to more stringent rollover, frontal and side crash tests.

U.S. House Begins "100 Hours" Legislative Agenda

Katrina Insurance Trials, Settlement Talks Underway

Court trials have begun this week in Mississippi, in two of the thousands of cases filed over the insurance industry's handling of claims in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, according to an Associated Press (AP) article. The AP also reports that settlement negotiations are underway between State Farm Insurance and Mississippi's Attorney General, in an attempt to resolve a civil lawsuit filed against the insurer by the State of Mississippi, charging State Farm with wrongful refusal of claims filed by policyholders in the aftermath of Katrina. Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast on August 29, 2005. Many policyholders allege that they received little or nothing in the way of payment for claims because the insurers wrongfully maintain that damages caused by Katrina's storm surge were not covered under most policies.

Today California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced a series of proposals to reform the state's health care system, including providing health insurance for the 6.5 million uninsured residents. Learn more in this video and slideshow presentation.  Members of the public are able to submit questions to members of the Governor's administration in a live web discussion on health care today at 1:45 pm Pacific time.

Learn more about health care law in FindLaw for the Public.

Fortune Magazine's Top 100 Companies to Work For

Fortune Magazine has released its annual list of the Top 100 Best Companies to Work For. To compile its list for 2007, Fortune surveyed more than 105,000 employees from 446 companies.

BusinessWeek Cover Story Focuses on Tort Reform

The cover story of the January 8th issue of BusinessWeek is entitled How Business Trounced The Trial Lawyers.  The story discusses gains that have made at the state level in limiting tort (personal injury) litigation.  For example, according to the BusinessWeek article, six states have passed laws seriously restricting the kinds of asbestos suits that can be filed.

Learn more about personal injury law in FindLaw for the Public.

Ratings for Child Care Services Proposed in California

There are more than 1 million children in about 58,000 licensed child care facilities in California.  The need to assist parents with better information on the safety and quality of these services was highlighted this week in a report issued by the California Legislative Analyst's Office entitled Developing Safety and Quality Ratings for Child Care: Issues and Options (PDF, HTML).  The report outlines a number of different options for improving this information, including providing ratings of child care providers. Today's San Francisco Chronicle has an article on this report.

For those seeking child care services FindLaw's Family Law Center contains a How to Find Good Childcare Checklist that features questions to consider when evaluating a child care provider.

110th Congress, 1st Session Convenes

The 110th Congress, 1st Session convened today at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.  In the U.S. House of Representatives, Representative Nancy Pelosi (D, CA) was elected as the first female Speaker of the House.  Starting on January 9th, a "100 hours" legislative agenda is scheduled to be taken up by the House.

Zyprexa Maker Announces Litigation Settlement

Eli Lilly, the maker of the anti-psychotic pharmaceutical Zyprexa today issued a press release today announcing a large-scale settlement with 14 plaintiffs' law firms (or groups of plaintiffs' law firms) that are involved in Zyprexa product liability litigation.

It is estimated that at least 18,000 cases -- the vast majority of existing Zyprexa product liability litigation cases -- are covered by this settlement. Approximately 1,200 claims that have been identified to Eli Lilly are not included in this settlement.

For more information:

FTC Files Complaints Against Weight-Loss Pill Marketers

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has filed complaints in four separate cases alleging that weight-loss and weight-control claims were not supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence. Marketers of the four products (Xenadrine EFX, CortiSlim, TrimSpa, and One-A-Day WeightSmart) have settled with the FTC, surrendered cash and other assets worth at least $25 million, and agreed to limit their future advertising claims. "You won't find weight loss in a bottle of pills that claims it has the latest scientific breakthrough or miracle ingredient," said FTC Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras. "Paying for fad science is a good way to lose cash, not pounds."

The New Jersey Death Penalty Study Commission, established in 2006 by the New Jersey Legislature, issued its final report (PDF) on January 2nd.  In its report the commission recommended that the state end the death penalty in New Jersey.  Today's New York Times has an article on the commission's report.

Capital punishment is allowed in the United States.  A key court ruling in the modern history of the death penalty is the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the case of Gregg vs. Georgia (1976).  You can learn more about the death penalty in this module from Justice Learning.

President Ford Honored, Mourned at the National Cathedral

On Tuesday, January 2nd, 2007 funeral services were held for President Gerald R. Ford at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.  President Ford died on Tuesday, December 26th, 2006 at age 93.

President Bush delivered remarks at the service, and said that "President Ford's time in office was brief, but history will long remember the courage and common sense that helped restore trust in the workings of our democracy."  In attendance at this funeral were former Presidents Jimmy Carter, George Bush,  Bill Clinton and many members of Congress.

President Ford will be buried on Wednesday on the grounds of the Ford Museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

For additional information regarding the memorial services, you can visit http://www.geraldfordmemorial.com/.

January 2007 Spotlight: Civil Rights

Each month FindLaw for the Public highlights a legal topic. To commemorate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (Jan. 15), the spotlight for January 2007 is on Civil Rights. Visit the January 2007 Spotlight Homepage for links to informative articles and resources on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the civil rights movement, and much more.