Common Law - The FindLaw Consumer Protection Law Blog

October 2012 Archives

Whooping Cough Vaccine Recommended for All Pregnant Women

Vaccines aren't often recommended for pregnant women but government experts want them to get a whooping cough vaccination as soon as possible.

Pregnant women are at greater risk for many infectious diseases not only because of their own immune system but also the baby they carry. Because of the exchange of blood between mother and fetus, infections can reach a baby before they're born.

But it also means immunizations can protect a baby who is too young to be vaccinated and that's the intent behind this recommendation.

The news come from Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices which approved the recommendation on Wednesday, reports NBC News.

That panel's advice is often adopted by federal officials who send it on to doctors and the public to inform that about important immunization updates.

The advice comes in response to the high number of cases of whooping cough reported this year. So far 16 people have died from the disease and thousands have been infected, reports Fox News.

Newborns can't be vaccinated against the disease but their mothers can which could help prevent infection.

Vaccinations are rarely recommended for pregnant women because of the risk that they could harm the fetus. While an adult immune system can cope with a weakened disease, a newly formed immune system can't. But in this case the benefits of immunization outweigh the risks.

For women who are pregnant, ask your health care provider if a whooping cough vaccination is a good idea. It could be vital for your baby.

Every woman hopes for a doctor who will care for her correctly during her pregnancy. But in some unfortunate cases that doesn't happen. If you're the victim of a negligent OB-GYN, it might be a good idea to get an attorney on your side.

This is only the second time a vaccination has been recommended for women during pregnancy, according to Fox News. The other recommended immunization is a flu shot.

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When you buy a foreclosed property it's hard to always know the history of the home. But if the home is an ex-meth lab it can cause serious health problems.

That's what happened to the Hankins family who bought a foreclosed home in Oregon using HomeSteps, a service by national housing organization Freddie Mac.

They got a good deal on the home but shortly after moving in the family began suffering health problems. Jonathan and his wife Beth starting getting serious headaches and mouth sores. Their 2-year-old son was sick a lot. Then they got a tip that their home may have been a meth lab.

The couple tested the house for methamphetamine residue and found 38 micrograms, reports ABC News. Oregon requires homeowners to keep levels below 0.5 micrograms.

Contacting Freddie Mac didn't get the couple far, since the meth use wasn't reported to the Oregon Health Authority. So they started a petition on Change.org to require Freddie Mac to test homes for meth and disclose the results to buyers just as they would for other toxic chemicals, like lead.

Selling a home is a serious transaction and the seller often has a responsibility to disclose anything 'material' to the buyer.

Material facts include any facts that would make a difference to the purchaser. That means being honest about any damage to the property, health and safety information, and anything that could pose a danger to new owners.

If you've recently purchased a house, those rules likely apply to your purchase too. If you think a material fact was left out contact a lawyer to find out what to do about it.

While Freddie Mac is sorry about what happened to the Hankins, a spokesman noted that they purchased the home 'as is.'

That means the buyer agrees to buy the home in whatever condition it currently is and the seller disclaims any responsibility for damage or problems with the property. It's an exception to the general rule.

Instead, Freddie Mac encourages purchasers to test the home themselves for any problems that might exist. It also says buyers can look online to see if the property is listed as a suspected meth lab on state and federal websites.

Legally it appears that Freddie Mac didn't do anything wrong but the Hankins are still hoping to change the policies. Their petition currently has over 200,000 supporters.

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Halloween Costumes with Lead Contamination Seized

Lead contamination can appear almost anywhere and this time the source is Halloween costumes.

U.S. Customs officials have seized over 1300 pirate costumes made in China because they contain 11 times the legal limit for lead. The buttons and trim on the costume could cause serious problems for children who put them in their mouths, reports Today.

The costumes were intercepted on their way to a Seattle-area distributor but now they're destined to be destroyed. Officials had targeted the costume manufacturer and it paid off.

Customs officials target incoming products for several reasons, including previous offenses by the shipper, manufacturer, or importer, and the country of origin, according to Today.

In this case the shipment was targeted because of a past violation although the name of the violator was not released.

Exposure to lead is dangerous for children and can lead to significant developmental problems. To prevent the harm of elevated levels of lead the federal government tightly controls the amount of lead that is acceptable in children's products.

The regulations don't just apply to food and drinks since children are prone to chew on things or put them in their mouths leading to ingestion of lead in products not meant for consumption.

If your child has lead poisoning, you may be able to get help paying medical bills. If the health problems started with a product that had unsafe levels of lead, contact an attorney who can help you build a case against the company that made it.

These costumes were caught but not all of them will necessarily be found. If you buy a Halloween costume be careful about where it was manufactured and produced.

Costumes made outside the U.S. could contain higher levels of lead especially if they come from a country that doesn't tightly control the amount of lead in children's products.

If you're still worried about what's in those pre-made costumes, consider making one with your kids using items and clothes from around the house. Not only will it likely be safer, it's also a great way to let your kids use their imagination.

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The Best Credit Cards to Ruin Your Credit

Having a credit card is an important way to build up your credit score but Consumer Reports Money Lab has compiled a list of the best credit cards out there for consumers.

There are a lot of variables to consider when choosing a credit card including rewards money or points, travel deals, low interest, and ability to make balance transfers. With all the choices out there is can be hard to even keep track of your options.

The list includes a variety of card types and banks that offer credit cards. While the perks are great, even better is knowing the cards listed are less likely to take advantage of consumers.

When rating the best cards, Consumer Reports took into account what they were used for.

The best cards with cash rewards were American Express Blue Cash Preferred, Fidelity Rewards American Express, and Capital One Cash Rewards. All of them provide some percentage back on a different variety of purchases. The best one for you would depend on what you buy most often.

When it comes to travel, your card can help you out with free miles and priority perks. The best cards for that? Chase Sapphire Preferred, American Express Blue Sky Preferred, and Capital One Venture Rewards came out on top although all three have a yearly fee.

If you're struggling with debt on one card or need to be able to quickly more money around, what you need is a good deal on balance transfers. Luckily the list covered that as well.

Check out the Chase Slate, Citi Diamond Preferred Card, and PenFed Promise Visa which have the lowest interest for the longest amount of time and which waive balance transfer fees for a while.

Credit cards haven't necessarily gotten more popular in the last few years but they've certainly become safer for consumers.

Better consumer protection laws ensure that your interest rate won't change without notice and that it won't go up continually. Not sure your bank is playing by the rules? Tell the FindLaw Answers Forum about your concerns and we'll get you a real answer quickly.

Whichever card you pick, keep in mind that credit cards are a double edged sword. Spend wisely and, hopefully, within your means to get the most out of your plastic.

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Nature's Recipe Dog Treats Recalled Over Salmonella

Nature's Recipe announced the recall of its "Nature's Recipe Oven Baked Biscuits with Real Chicken."

The recall is a voluntary recall due to a potential risk that the dog treats are contaminated with salmonella, reports CBS.

The pet food company says that no pet or human illnesses have been reported so far, but the company suggests that pet owners monitor themselves and their dogs for signs of salmonella, writes CBS.

This recall shows that even products with the most healthy-sounding names have the potential to carry harmful bacteria. After all, who wouldn't want to get their dogs oven baked chicken treats made from nature's recipe? Sounds healthy, right?

It wasn't reported how the products were exposed to salmonella, but the company, a brand of Del Monte Foods, says that the dog treats were manufactured at its plant in Topeka, Kansas and were distributed nationally.

The company says that animals eating the product have the potential of becoming infected as do humans from handling contaminated pet products, reports CBS.

Customers who bought the dog treats are urged to throw it out. And if pet owners see symptoms of salmonella infections in their dogs, they are urged to call their vets.

Some signs that your dog has been infected by salmonella can include lethargy, diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, fever, and vomiting. Some dogs will have decreased appetite, fever, and abdominal pain, reports CBS.

The oven baked biscuits that are subject to the recall were sold in pouches with the Lot Codes 2199TP or 2200TP and a UPC Code of 30521 51549. The pouches also have a "Best If Used By Date" stamp of "10 11 13" and "10 12 13."

To learn more about the recall, you can contact the company at its web site or call its consumer hotline at 800-237-3856. If you believe your dog (or anyone else) may have suffered injury from the product, you may also consider talking to a product liability attorney to learn your rights to collect damages.

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Graco announced that it is voluntarily recalling its Classic Wood Highchairs.

In yet another recall involving baby products, Graco recalled its highchairs amid reports of children falling from the chairs, reports NBC.

Graco has received 58 reports of the highchair seats loosening or detaching from the base. In nine cases, children have fallen from the highchairs as the seat separated from the base of the chair. Most of the children suffered relatively minor injuries like bumps, bruises, and scratches. In one case, a child suffered a concussion after falling from the chair, writes NBC.

The recall affects about 86,000 chairs sold in the U.S. and Canada. The highchair manufacturer is working with officials in both countries to resolve the issue.

The highchairs that are subject to the recall are all Graco brand Classic Wood Highchairs sold in three wood finishes. The high chair has a top seat, bottom leg assembly, and removable tray. The model number is printed on a label on the underside of the seat. Affected model numbers include: 3C00BPN; 3C00BPN TC; 3C00CHY; 3C00CHY TC; 3C00CPO; and 3C00CPO TC.

These products were sold at Babies R Us, Burlington Coat Factory, Target.com, Walmart.com, and other retail stores, reports NBC. They were sold between September 2007 and December 2010 for about $130.

If you own one of these chairs, you are urged to stop using it immediately. You can contact Graco for a free repair kit at (800) 345-4109 or by visiting its website at www.gracobaby.com. You should also be aware that it is illegal to sell or resell these highchairs.

If you have been injured by one of these products, you may also want to contact a product liability attorney to learn your rights. Manufacturers are typically liable for defective products that are used properly by the consumer. An attorney can help review your causes of action and explain your options for recovery.

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Identity theft and online fraud are two of the fastest-growing crimes in the nation. These crimes can rob you of your money, time, and peace of mind.

Typically, these crimes happen on the Internet where a criminal steals an individual's personal information like his Social Security Number or password, and uses these to commit fraud and other crimes.

These crimes are particularly harmful as the crime can be ongoing and happen over a long period of time before you actually become aware. In addition, identity thieves and online frauds may access all of your personal information, giving them the potential to wipe you out.

The best way to fight identity theft is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Keep the following three tips in mind on how to avoid being a victim of identity theft or online fraud.

1. Keep your personal records safe. While identity theft and fraud generally happen online, you may also be robbed of your identity offline. Prior to the Internet, many criminals would dumpster dive and look for your sensitive information in the garbage. This still happens. So keep your personal information secure in your home such as in a safe or locked drawer. If you must dispose of such information, you should shred it first.

2. Use a password that is unique. "Password" and "MyPassword1234" are easy to remember, but hardly unique. Other passwords to avoid are pet's names, phone numbers, birthdays, and anything else easily guessed. Also, you should avoid using the same password for all your accounts. This way, if one password is compromised, some of your accounts will be unaffected.

3. Don't give out personal information over the phone. There are many scammers that are attempting to use telephone calls to get personal information. These phone calls will often sound official, such as a department store’s credit department calling in order to get payment. Typically, legitimate businesses will not require anything too personal over the phone.

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Meningitis Outbreak Kills 5, Sickens 30 in 5 States

Meningitis is a relatively uncommon infection but a recent outbreak of a fungal variety of the disease has health officials worried.

The infections are linked to steroids that are given for back pain and administered through a spinal injection. So far four people have died from the infection and more than 30 have been infected. Cases have been reported in five different states but more people could be affected.

The steroid was apparently contaminated with a fungus and batches of the drug have been shipped to 23 states, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It's a serious issue but there is some good news for the public.

This form of meningitis is not communicable, meaning infected people won't pass the disease to others. So far all the reported cases come from people who also received a lumbar epidural steroid injection for back pain.

Meningitis comes in several different forms since it happens when an infection gets into the cerebrospinal fluid and is not caused by a specific illness.

Most cases are either viral or bacterial and are easily spread from person to person. Bacterial meningitis is the most severe form of the disease and can lead to serious brain damage if it's not treated promptly.

Fungal meningitis is much less common and this particular strain of it is highly dangerous.

The Massachusetts pharmacy that is the suspected source of the outbreak has already shut down voluntarily, reports ABC News. The FDA has also recommended that health providers stop using products made by the pharmacy, named New England Compounding Center.

If you've received a spinal injection for pain recently, check with your doctor if the treatment came from the affected lot. Quick action is the key since this infection progresses fast.

For victims that have already fallen ill, treatment can take months and requires hospitalization, according to The New York Times. Those victims could be entitled to recover in a lawsuit against the drug makers. If that applies to you or someone you love, contact an attorney as soon as possible so you don't lose any time.

Because the disease doesn't spread between people, public health officials are focused on notifying patients who had injections with the infected drugs. More cases of infection are expected, reports ABC News.

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Peanut Butter Recall Expands: 30 Sick with Salmonella

Peanut butter lovers should put down the spoon because even more of everyone's favorite nut butter has been recalled due to salmonella.

The issue started with Trader Joe's brand peanut butter which has been traced to 30 cases of salmonella across 19 states. The recall has since expanded to include all Sunland, Inc. products made on the same equipment as the contaminated food.

That affects a lot of peanut butter brands and products, including Target's Archer Farms and Earth Balance, reports USA Today. It may seem like overkill but salmonella is a dangerous bacteria.

Children and the elderly are more susceptible to the illness but, as evidenced by the fact that most of the victims so far are under 10, this outbreak has disproportionately affected children.

That makes sense since peanut butter-based sandwiches are popular in elementary school lunches.

It was a good move for Sunland to recall all brands that could potentially be contaminated even if it brings down sales while the recall happens.

Companies have a responsibility to produce a safe product and food companies must meet safety standards set by the Food and Drug Administration.

When a food producer realizes that one of their products causes illness, they have a responsibility to issue a voluntary recall. If they don't, the FDA will recall the product for them and institute some form of punishment.

While no one has gotten sick from brands other than Trader Joe's, now that Sunland knows the risk, they could be liable if they don't issue a recall and people get sick from other brands. Preemptively recalling the products helps protect them from bigger legal problems.

The company could still be responsible in a civil suit for any injuries the salmonella contamination caused for the families affected by the illness.

Failing to meet the standards for food safety opens the company to a negligence claim.

If you've been sickened by contaminated peanut butter or another unsafe food product, you have a right to sue for your injuries. To find out more call a lawyer who can help you sort out any legal claims you may have.

The recall affects many peanut butter products so check the full list before eating what's in your pantry. When in doubt, throw it out.

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Maybelline Sued for Lipstick Without Staying Power

Makeup companies like Maybelline often make claims about their long-lasting lipstick and clump-free mascara. But just like any other company, their claims have to be based on some kind of facts.

Maybelline seems to have forgotten that when it started marketing its Super Stay 10HR Stain Gloss and Super Stay 14 HR Lipstick and consumers weren't happy. A group of women are suing the makeup company for false advertising, claiming that the makeup doesn't last nearly as long as the name suggests.

Advertisers do have some wiggle room when it comes to making claims about products but the lawsuit claims the company has gone too far and misrepresented themselves to customers.

The Super Stay line advertises itself as a product that will last for hours, as evidenced by the times that appear in the products' names.

But customers complain the lipstick only lasts a few hours before wearing off, reports The Wall Street Journal. Along with their lawyers, the women are claiming that Maybelline's ads are a misrepresentation of the lipstick's actual staying power.

When it comes to advertising, companies have a responsibility to be reasonably honest.

Courts do allow a bit of what the legal world calls 'puffing' and what most normal people just call 'spin.' But that only permits some additional embellishment of the truth.

In general, more generic terms are ok if used to talk up a product. But the more concrete the advertising, such as '10 hour' or 'better than competitors,' the less likely a court will be OK if the product doesn't meet expectations.

Have you felt ripped off by a product that didn't seem to live up to the ads? You can always ask the experts at the FindLaw Answers Retail Purchases Forum about whether the ads fall into the realm of misleading.

If that's the case you could be entitled to compensation for the disappointing product.

It's hard to judge the chances of this lawsuit without more information. The fact that some women claim that lipstick doesn't last long enough could be important. But Maybelline's basis for the claim and how long they observed the lipstick's staying power will likely be a key part of the case.

So far the national brand hasn't commented on the lawsuit, according to The Wall Street Journal. All they'll say is that they stand behind their products.

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American Express has agreed to pay $112.5 million in refunds and fines to settle accusations of unlawful late fees and other deceptive practices.

The self-proclaimed "world's largest issuer of credit cards" had been sued by several federal and state agencies who claimed that the company violated consumer protection laws "at all stages of the game — from the moment a consumer shopped for a card to the moment the consumer got a phone call about long overdue debt," reports The Associated Press.

As part of the settlement, American Express agreed to refund $85 million to about 250,000 customers and pay $27.5 million in fines.

The allegations were a bit surprising as American Express was generally viewed as a stalwart among credit card companies. The company is perhaps best known for having excellent rewards programs and having high limits.

Still, the company was accused of perpetuating almost every possible deceptive practice that a credit card company could be accused of. For example, the company allegedly discriminated against customers based on age, made false promises of cash and bonus points, and failed to report customer disputes over billing to the consumer-credit reporting agencies, reports the AP.

Perhaps the biggest sticking point was American Express' alleged practice to use false statements to get customers to settle old debts. Customers were reportedly told that if they agreed to settlements to partially pay off their debts, the remaining balance would be forgiven. This was apparently not true.

Customers affected by the lawsuit will reportedly be notified by American Express.

Given the nature of credit cards and the ease with which many unsophisticated consumers can access them, the government has set up many regulations governing what credit card companies can and cannot do.

If you believe you have been defrauded by a credit company, you may want to contact a consumer protection attorney to learn your rights. Additionally, if you have any questions regarding acts by your credit card company, you can post a question on FindLaw Answers and normally receive an answer within 24 hours.

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